Running a marathon is tough enough without making it a crash course.

In last October's Chicago Marathon, Ed Eyestone ran the fastest time by an American (2 hours, 10 minutes, 59 seconds) for a fifth-place finish.But when Eyestone was cruising along midway through the race, he suddenly tumbled to the ground.

"I got knocked down at one of the water stations," Eyestone said the other day from his home in Bountiful, Utah.

"When you've run 13 miles and suddenly you find yourself skidding along on the pavement, you say to yourself, `Oh, no, there goes my race.' But I was able to take a roll and get back up."

On Monday, Eyestone hopes to avoid body contact when he returns for the 95th running of the Boston Marathon.

This will be only the second Boston Marathon for Eyestone, 29. After his Back Bay debut, a disappointing 2:19.19 in 1987, Eyestone turned to his wife, Lynn, and said, "If I ever want to do this again, talk me out of it."

Why is he going back to Boston?

"I guess she wasn't able to talk me out of it," the former Brigham Young University runner said, laughing. "Seriously, I wanted a spring marathon. When I made the decision, I didn't want to be traveling to London (for the April 21 London Marathon).

"Running well at Boston, with its competition, prestige and history, does so much more for you than running anywhere else.

"If you win at Boston, it does a lot more for you than a win at Pittsburgh or Los Angeles.

"And, to be frank, there's a good appearance fee in it for me."

Eyestone has been pleased with his training, although he has been bothered by tendinitis in his hip.

"But now it's down to a dull gnaw," Eyestone said.

Unlike some marathoners, the hills on the Boston course don't terrify Eyestone.

"When I first drove the course and saw Heartbreak Hill, I almost felt like grinning," said the four-time former NCAA champion. "I grew up in the Rocky Mountains and that really wasn't a hill to me. It was an incline.

"Where those hills fall on the course, around 18, 19 miles, physiologically, you're starting to be depleted of your muscle glycogen, your fuel. Suddenly, there are these inclines. That's what the challenge is all about.

"It's not like you're running on a even pavement for 18, 19 miles. You take stomach punches early on by the downhills that set up the knockout blow."