Ibrahim Hussein kept his eye on the finish line and won the Boston Marathon for the second time. Abebe Mekonnen made the mistake of keeping his eye on the man who was supposed to win.

By the time Mekonnen realized that Douglas Wakiihuri wouldn't live up to his billing as the favorite in a strong field, it was too late to catch up.Hussein easily held off a late surge and beat Mekonnen by 16 seconds Monday.

The Kenyan didn't particularly care that his time of 2 hours, 11 minutes, 6 seconds was slow. What mattered was simply crossing the finish line first one year after suffering an injury he felt might end his outstanding career.

"I won. That was the most important thing," Hussein said. "I wanted to prove to myself that I am still competitive and can still win."

Hussein, 32, was part of the lead pack throughout the race until he pulled away from the field of 8,685. The last runner he passed was Andy Ronan of Ireland, who began dropping back 22 miles into the 26-mile, 385-yard race.

The men's race switched leads and pack members for the first 18 miles. First there was Osmiro Silva of Brazil, then Hussein, then Jean Michel Charbonnel of France, Jouni Kortelaine of Finland, Alexjandro Cruz of Mexico, Ronan, Simon Naali of Tanzania and Ed Eyestone of Utah. All led at various points.

But at the base of the famous hills of Newton that lead to Heartbreak Hill, Eyestone dropped back, leaving Cruz, Hussein and Ronan shoulder-to-shoulder for the long haul. By mile 20, Cruz had faded.

Eyestone finished in 15th place in a time of 2:15.58.

Wakiihuri ended up sixth, just like women's favorite Ingrid Kristiansen of Norway, whose six-marathon winning streak was broken.

Wanda Panfil of Poland won the women's competition in 2:24:18. Only Joan Benoit Samuelson has run the race faster with her 2:22:43 clocking in her 1983 victory.

Both winners won $55,000 of the $402,000 total purse.

Samuelson, who gave birth to a son in January 1990, made a dramatic return to marathoning Monday after a two-year layoff since her tear-provoking ninth-place finish in Boston. The Maine runner was second for most of the last half of Monday's race, but was overtaken in the final mile by runner-up Kim Jones of Spokane, Wash., and Uta Pippig of Germany. Samuelson's time was 2:26.54.