Archive for April 2010
The Boston Marathon last week was brilliant; it always is, no matter what the outcome. Has anyone ever left Beantown the day after the race and not been awestruck?
This year, thanks to a sunny cool day and a wind that became a tailwind at half way, there were hundreds of PRs. The first one set was by Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot, who set a course record of 2:05:52. A 2:05 at Boston!! Can you imagine? He obliterated the previous record of 2:07:14 and also set a world record for the fastest marathon run without pacesetters.
Young Robert –there are two reasons I call him this—took control of the race when the wind favored him, at about 17 miles, and poured on the pace. Nobody would—or could—stay with him, and he ran with a kind of fearless, but controlled abandon. Beautifully brilliant.
He is going to go down in history as “Cheruiyot the Younger” because indeed he is very young, only 21, and because the course record he broke was that of his 31-year old friend and advisor, Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot, who is a four-time winner of Boston. Like previous Boston Marathon champions John A. and John J. Kelley, the two Cheruiyots will be known as “The Elder” and “The Younger.” This is one way that Boston makes its history, and in 114 years of running, this race has plenty of opportunities.
History was made again in the women’s race, when Ethiopian Tayba Erkesso (winner of January’s Houston Marathon) broke boldly at about halfway from a large group of women leading the race at a sluggish pace and just went for it. Countrywomen Dire Tune (Boston champ in 2008) and Koren Yal tried to go with her, but the move was so fast and the pace so quickened that they fell away. Erkesso made her way alone but began slowing at mile 23. That’s when the figure of Tatyana Pushkareva emerged on the horizon. Pushkareva was not considered a podium contender, despite winning the San Antonio and Country Music marathons last year but in Boston she judged her pace perfectly and was having the best race of her life. She moved closer and closer to Erkesso— one minute back, 34 seconds back, and suddenly on the home stretch it was only eight seconds back. There was a final rush to the finish as Erkesso barely hung on, winning by three seconds. Last year, the race was won by one second, and the year before, by two seconds. Lately, the big finish line drama at Boston is in the women’s race!
As I came down off the finish line photo bridge, which is our WBZ-TV perch for doing the TV commentary of the race, I was engulfed in a slowly moving street-full of race finishers. They were silent, as they were weary; but they were smiling through those deeply lined faces. There were lots of PRs, and later that evening, when they met their friends for dinner, the streets of Boston were full of the sound of their laughter and high fives, and the clanking of their medals. This is a wonderful sight and while it always leaves me feeling a bit envious when I haven’t run myself, it gives me a feeling of hope about the human condition. 25,000 people have done something quite extraordinary. Beautifully brilliant.
Now I’m on a plane heading to Champaign, Illinois for the second running of the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon. There are 14,300 participants in only its second year! But it is no surprise that this race was a success from it’s inception since it is organized by three exceptionally energetic and highly-organized people– Mark Knutson, Executive Director, and race co-directors Jan Colorusso Seeley and Mike Lindemann. Race directors from all over the country are already there, volunteering their time and expertise…this group really understands the sport, and they also know how to make fun, festive and accomplishment happen. With the added impact of flat streets and a finish in the great Memorial Stadium at the University of Illinois, there is good reason the race sold out some time ago. (Although the race team generously did open registration again for 300 people who were turned off the course at Nashville last week because of tornado sightings).
Come by the Marathon & Beyond booth at the expo in the University of Illinois Activities and Recreation Center (ARC) on Friday and visit with 8-times Boston Marathon wheelchair champ, Jean Driscoll and me. We’re speaking at 2 PM and also speaking at all three pasta dinners, held in the same building. On race day, Jean is doing the half marathon, and I’m helping with the local radio broadcast. For more details, go to http://www.illinoismarathon.com. CU there!
For the last 44 years, my heart rate begins to go up starting with the first day in April. By now, April 10, I also feel anxious and edgy. By the time I get to downtown Boston and see the banners fluttering and a big gold and blue FINISH painted on Boylston Street, I will be in full hyperventilation.
No, I’m not running. I’m doing my 28th consecutive telecast for WBZ-TV. You’d think I’d have gotten over being nervous about this telecast a long time ago; I mean, I have been there longer for the broadcast than any other Boston Marathon commentator, producer or even news director! Plus I’m working with the best group of friends and colleagues in the business. But I get nervous because it’s just like running—you do so much preparation and then you want very much to get it right on the day, at the precise moment.
TV is also like running because every race is different and you have to deal with the unexpected while on the move. And this year, more than ever before, those moves will be many and very fast. Both the men’s and women’s fields are loaded.
Three returning women’s champions will start and they are all top contenders: Lidiya Grigoryeva (winner in ‘07), Dire Tune (‘08), and Salina Kosgei (‘09). It’s an important historical moment to have that many in-shape women’s champions together; it speaks not only to the importance of this race but as their ages span from 24-36, it is testimony to women aspiring to and holding onto top professional status for a long time, despite the rigors of the sport. (Up to two days ago, there were actually four returning champions, but four-time Boston champion Catherine Ndereba, who probably knows more about the demands of long-term performance than anybody, had to withdraw with a piriformis injury.) Add to this list a slew of lesser-know speedsters–particularly Ethiopian women, who have been a tidal wave force in increasing the elite depth of women’s running. Today, Ethiopian women won both Rotterdam and Paris.
The men’s field boasts nine men faster than 2:07. I just looked at the list and thought, this can’t be true! Athletic performance never fails to stun us, but the outpouring of superb men’s marathon times makes talk of a sub 2-hour marathon suddenly less unthinkable. (Rotterdam today was won in 2:04, after all…) What is intriguing about the men’s race, however, is that Boston is not a fast course. It can be run fairly fast, but it first has to be run strategically, and that will make this a fascinating race. That should play into the hands of both D. Merga of Ethiopia and A.Goumri of Morocco, fast guys who know how to hold back and wait, but also of American Meb Keflezighi, who won the New York City Marathon last November using this tactic. Meb is only ranked 16th coming into Boston, but to me he’s the most dangerous. And you all just KNOW the USA is desperate to have an American winner of Boston; the last was Greg Meyer in 1983. By the way, I am not at all overlooking American Ryan Hall! Ryan is 3rd ranked in this field and likes to go fast; his challenge is if he does that, will he have to do all the early work himself?
Everyone wants to score an upset in Boston, because if you do it here you’ve done it on the world stage. All around me I see many young, extremely talented unknowns who are aggressive and determined to give it all they have to change their lives on these storied streets. Just getting to the start line here is a triumph—ask any of the other 25,000 runners who had to qualify just to get a bib number. Maybe the biggest story in Boston are those numbers—11,315 of whom are women by the way, a massive record—who have gone well beyond fitness to be at Boston. And for the many more who qualified this year but were turned away as the Boston streets simply cannot hold more runners. The capacity for human performance will continue to amaze us, and I am delighted to be reporting on it. Nervous, of course, just like a race. But what a privilege!
I’d love to see you in Boston; here’s where I will be, so stop by or tune in, they are all open to the public:
- At the Marathon Tours Booth # 2001 at the Expo at the Hynes Convention Center, I’ll be signing and selling my book Marathon Woman and the matching shirt. Hours: Friday, April 16 (3-7PM), Sat., Apr.17 (2-5:30PM) and Sun, Apr.18 (noon-2:30PM).
- Sunday morning, April 18, at the start line stage of the BAA 5K race on Copley Square, about 7:30 before the 8AM start.
- At the annual Runners World ‘Legends Panel’, I’ll be speaking along with legends Ron Hill, Greg Meyer, Dick Beardsley and Lisa Rainsberger. Location and Time: Sheraton Boston Hotel, Back Bay Ballroom C, 2nd floor, 3 PM.
- Monday, April 19: tune in to WBZ-TV (CBS affiliate) from 9:30-2PM to watch the greatest race on earth!
Good luck ! And my best to you, Kathrine