BOSTON, April 14 (UPI) -- Two-time runnerup Silvio Guerra of Ecuador hopes to cross the finish line first Monday in the 106th Boston Marathon.
Guerra, 33, ran strong last year before Bong-Ju Lee of South Korea passed him in the late stages for the victory. Guerra finished 24 seconds behind in second place, where he was in 1999 behind Kenyan Joseph Chebet.
The Ecuadorian is determined to taste victory this time around after hard training in Quito, Ecuador and Boulder, Colo.
"I'm thinking to come and win the race," he said. "That's my goal, that's what I'm training for."
Guerra, who also finished 10th in the 2000 race, is the lone top runner from Ecuador this year. A runner from Ecuador has never won the Marathon, but in addition to Guerra's second-place finishes, Rolando Vera placed third in 1990.
Lee ended a decade of dominance by Kenyan runners with his victory in 2001. He was the first Korean to win the Boston Marathon since Kee Yong Ham in 1950. The 31-year-old pulled away from Guerra with about a mile and three-quarters to go and gradually increased his lead to finish the 26-mile distance in 2:09.43.
In 1997, Lee was voted the No. 1 marathon runner in the world by Track & Field News, but his career had been mostly highlighted by second-place finishes.
Catherine Ndereba of Nigeria is the two-time defending women's champion. Ndereba won last year by nearly three minutes over Poland's Malgorzata Sobanska in a dominating run.
The 29-year-old Ndereba clocked 2 hours, 23 minutes, 53 seconds. Six months later, she set a world record of 2:18.47 at the Chicago Marathon just one week after 2000 Olympics champion Naoko Takahashi of Japan broke the 2:20 barrier at the Berlin race in 2:19.46. Ndereba also won consecutive marathons in Chicago.
"Boston is a challenging course with hills," said the mother of a 5-year-old daughter who was presented with a medal of honor after her world-record run last year by Kenya president Daniel Arap Moi. "Chicago is a dead-flat course."
The Nigerian runner goes into the race with confidence and focus. She is not concerned with her rival runners or the temperatures which are predicted to be in the 70s on Monday afternoon.
Sobanska may be one of those main competitors as she ran in front for the first 14 miles last year before Ndereba overtook her. Sobanska's finish was a personal best in 2:26.42, almost a minute faster than her previous top run in the 1999 Berlin Marathon.
Americans Josh Cox and Mark Coogan are expected to finish in the men's top 10. Cox surprised the field last year when he led for a period before falling to a respectable 12th. The San Diego native said he will run with the pack the first part of the event and make his push in the last few miles.
The last American to win the Boston Marathon was Greg Meyer in 1983.