BOSTON (AP) – Robert Cheruiyot pounded the same pavement that another Kenyan did in setting the Boston Marathon course record 12 years ago. Only Cheruiyot had a lot less company and needed one less second to break the tape.

And the 2003 champion didn’t have a helping tailwind Monday like the one that pushed Cosmas Ndeti to victory in 1994.

So Cheruiyot, who didn’t take the lead until he had run nearly 19 miles and didn’t have any close challengers to speed him up, doubted that he could run into the record books.

“I think no, and then I see I can make it,” when he saw the digital timer above the finish line, he said.

When he passed under it, the big yellow numbers read: 2:07:14. Runnerup and countryman Benjamin Maiyo reached it 1 minute, 7 seconds later in a time of 2:08:21.

Cheruiyot’s decision to stick to his plan despite the blistering pace set by Maiyo paid off. Halfway through the 26.2-mile race, Maiyo was running at a pace that would bring him across the finish line at 2:06:02, which was 23 seconds faster than Cheruiyot’s pace.

But 18.6 miles into the race when the runners were on Commonwealth Avenue in Newton, which borders Boston to the west, the two Kenyans were running mere steps apart. Then Cheruiyot began to pull away and, at 21.7 miles, had raced to a 20-second lead over Maiyo.

“This is a marathon,” Cheruiyot said. “I was able to catch him because marathon is a long distance.”

He continued to pull away and led by 25 seconds with a little more than a mile to go.

For a while, Maiyo thought he might catch up, particularly when Cheruiyot reached the series of hills in Newton that often breaks runners down.

“I thought maybe he was going to slow down,” Maiyo said, “but I see he was very strong.”

At one point when they were running close together, he even gestured toward Cheruiyot.

“I was trying to tell Robert to assist me in pacing, but Robert refused,” Maiyo said with a laugh.

Cheruiyot had other guidance.

“I was following the instruction from (his advisers) that told me what I should follow,” Cheruiyot said.

He also had experience in Boston, having finished fifth last year, failing to finish in 2004 and winning in 2:10:11 in 2003 in his second career marathon.

Americans Meb Keflezighi, Brian Sell and Alan Culpepper finished third, fourth and fifth, the best showing by U.S. runners since four of them finished in the top five in 1985, led by Gary Tuttle, who finished second to Geoff Smith of Great Britain.

Cheruiyot and Maiyo were the only competitors to run faster than 2:09:56. When Ndeti set the record, all of the top 10 finishers beat that time. In that race, Bob Kempainen of Minnesota ran 2:08:47, still the fastest time by an American in Boston.

Four of the previous top eight times in the race were recorded in 1994, and that year Uta Pippig set a women’s course record that has been broken.

Cheruiyot had to contend with a crosswind, although little sun and temperatures in the low to mid 50s didn’t sap the racers’ stamina.

“When I was at 40 kilometers (24.86 miles), I think maybe I can run 2:06,” Cheruiyot said.

He needed a little more time but not as much as Ndeti – or any other Boston winner – did.

Ndeti followed up in 1995 with his third consecutive win in Boston. Cheruiyot could win his third next year if he returns – and follows the direction of his coach not to worry that others are running very fast during the race, only that he has enough speed left to be the fastest at the end.

“I could not go against what they have told me and you see the results,” Cheruiyot said.