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Sports 101

Twenty-six miles. 385 yards. 12,700 runners. The 103rd Boston Marathon is just around the corner. Runners, both world class and amateur, will line up at noon in the western Boston suburb of Hopkinton, Mass., Monday and head toward the finish line in Boston's Back Bay. It's a daunting distance: longer than the English Channel is wide in places and the equivalent of nearly 105 laps at your high school track. Coverage on ESPN2 begins at 11:30 a.m.

Q: Who were last year's champions?

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A: Moses Tanui of Kenya and Fatuma Roba of Ethiopia. A win for Roba, the first African woman to win in Boston, would give her a rare "three-peat."

Q: When was the first race?

A: In 1897, when it was called "The American Marathon." It started with only 15 runners, all men, and 10 finished. Since then, the race has grown in national and international stature.

Q: How does a runner qualify to run in the Boston marathon?

A: Participants must run a fast-enough qualifying time between Oct. 1, 1997, and March 1, 1999, at a certified marathon - 3 hours, 10 minutes, for men under 34; 3 hours, 40 minutes, for women under 34.

Q: How big is the Boston Marathon on a national and international scale?

A: In terms of media credentials, the Boston Marathon ranks behind only the Super Bowl as the largest single-day sporting event in the world. The 1998 race was covered by more than 1,400 media members representing more than 300 organizations from 12 countries.

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Q: What's new this year?

A: For the first time, people will be able to follow the marathon from their computer screen. The marathon's Web site ( will provide almost instantaneous updates every 3.1 miles (the runners will have computer chips laced into their sneakers).

Q: How many spectators are expected to watch the event?

A: More than 1 million spectators line the streets each year, making it the most widely viewed sporting event in New England. It's such a longstanding tradition that the Boston Red Sox game starts early at 11 a.m., to allow the 33,000 baseball fans to spill out onto the streets and watch the runners flash by.

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