Boston: Making the final turn of the Boston Marathon, with almost 26 miles behind them and just a few blocks to go, the runners abandoned convention and swung wide to the far side of Boylston Street.
Forget the shortest distance to the finish, that`s where the shade was.
"It`s hot out there, in case you didn`t know," Kenyan Wesley Korir said after enduring record high temperatures to win the 116th Boston Marathon on Monday. "I knew I had to hydrate to survive. I was more concerned about my hydration than my positioning."
A permanent resident of the United States, Korir sang religious songs as he trudged along the scorching pavement to cross the finish line in 84.8-degree temperatures with a time of 2 hours, 12 minutes, 40 seconds. Sharon Cherop won the women`s race in a sprint to the finish to complete the Kenyan sweep.
Korir, a graduate of Louisville, finished 26 seconds ahead of fellow Kenyan Levy Matebo in the second-slowest Boston race since 1985. It was almost 10 minutes behind the world best established here a year ago by Geoffrey Mutai, who dropped out this year with stomach cramps after 18 miles.
Mutai was hoping a repeat victory would clinch a spot on the Kenyan Olympic team. But it was Korir, a two-time Los Angeles Marathon winner, who may have won a ticket to the London Games.
"To me, I think running the Boston Marathon is an Olympic event," he said. "I don`t care what comes up after this, but I`m really, really happy to win Boston."
Temperatures of around 70 degrees at the start in Hopkinton rose to 85 by the time the top runners reached the finish line and continued to rise to a record 89 before the field of more than 22,000 finished its 26.2-mile trek to Boston`s Back Bay.
Organizers said that as of Monday evening, fewer than 2,000 participants had received some level of medical attention, and about 120 were taken to hospitals in ambulances. One person was taken from the course in serious condition in Wellesley, though the details of his or her condition were unavailable.
Crowds at the Copley Square medical tent were bigger than in previous years, with the smell of sunscreen and the sound of ambulance sirens in the air.
"It is a very busy day, but it was the day for which people planned," Boston Athletic Association executive director Tom Grilk said. "The god of marathoning, she smiled on us."
The heat slowed the leaders and led to warnings that may have convinced as many as 4,300 no-shows to sit this one out. Race organizers offered those who picked up their registration packets but did not start the opportunity to save a place in next year`s race.
A total of 22,426 runners started the race in Hopkinton — about 84 percent of the registered field of 26,716 entrants. Several hundred who picked up their starting bibs did not show up at the start will be offered a chance to run in 2013 instead.
The heat didn`t seem to be a problem for Canadian Joshua Cassidy, who won the men`s wheelchair race in 1:18:25 to beat the previous world best by 2 seconds. American Shirley Reilly edged Japan`s Wakako Tsuchida during a sprint to the finish in the women`s wheelchair division.
But the weather almost cost Korir a victory.
Trailing the leaders by 200 yards through Heartbreak Hill, Korir got word from a spectator that he was in sixth place.
"I thought, `If I finished No. 5, that would be awesome,`" Korir said. "After I passed No. 5, I thought, `Let me get to fourth.` I wasn`t thinking about winning; I was thinking about counting one person at a time. One-by-one, it just happened."
That`s when leg cramps forced him to slow down.
"I was then passed," he said. "Soon, I started to feel better and was able to pick up my speed again."
Korir was the 19th Kenyan man to win Boston in the last 22 years. Bernard Kipyego was third as Kenyans swept the podium in both genders.
Jason Hartmann, of Boulder, Colo., was in fourth place and the top American.
"The pace wasn`t blasting, so it wasn`t anything that was over my head," Hartmann said. "There were so many times that you wanted to throw in the towel, but you just fought on. I don`t think that anyone coming to this race really could say they were prepared for this heat."
Cherop outkicked Jemima Jelagat Sumgong to win by 2 seconds, in 2:31:50 — the fifth consecutive year the women`s race was decided by a sprint down Boylston Street. Cherop, who was also hoping to be selected for the Kenyan Olympic team, was third at the world championships and third in Boston last year.
"This time around, I was really prepared," she said. "Last time the race went so fast and I didn`t know I was about to finish. I didn`t know the course well and I didn`t know the finish line was coming."
The winners will receive $150,000 apiece. Korir and his wife, Canadian runner Tarah McKay, run a foundation in his hometown of Kitale and have been building a hospital in the memory of his brother Nicholas, who was killed by a black mamba snake at the age of 10.
One year after cool temperatures and a significant tailwind helped Mutai finish in 2:03:02 for the fastest marathon ever, the heat had elite runners adopting a slower pace and recreational runners trying to figure out how to finish at all.
Race officials warned runners to be alert for signs of heat stroke and dehydration and asked those who were inexperienced or ill to skip this race. The BAA also offered a limited deferment in 2010, when the Icelandic volcano eruption stalled air traffic in Europe and prevented about 300 runners from getting to Boston.
The Boston Marathon has had its share of hot weather, with the thermometer hitting 97 degrees during the 1909 race that came to be known as "The Inferno" and the 1976 "Run for the Hoses" that started in 100-degree heat and finished with spectators sprinkling winner Jack Fultz with garden hoses to cool him down.
Jason Warick, of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, took an ice bath before the race to cool his body.
He finished 62nd, following his 73-minute half-marathon by a 95-minute second 13.1 miles.
"It was brutal, just brutally hot," he said. "Around 15 miles the wheels just came off. Then it was just about getting home."