Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Boston 09 Spectator Report

Another exciting Boston Marathon has come and gone. For the first time since Meb Keflezighi did it in 2006, Americans Ryan Hall and Kara Goucher each took third place overall. From my vantage point at the 20 mile mark, both looked strong. The problem, however, was that their competitors looked strong too. Especially the women, they seemed to be biding their time and waiting for the opportune moment to pounce. From her performances at the Boston Indoor Games et al, we know that Goucher has great speed. In an interview just seconds before the starting gun fired, Steve Burton asked her, "What's your strategy?" Her charismatic reply, "Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, sprint." She put herself in great position to enact that strategy, but Salina Kosgei of Kenya and Dire Tune of Ethiopia are great closers as well and had just a little more than the gritty, affable Goucher.

As for local women, Sheri Piers had an unbelievable race. Her time was 2:37.04. That's 6:00 pace for the 37 year old from Falmouth, ME. What's most impressive about Piers' performance is her negative split. She was one of the few non-elites to do that in the fierce headwind that gusted in the faces of the runners for the full 26/385. Heidi Westerling also ran well. The Olympic Marathon trialist ran 6:14 pace for a 2:43.11. One of the most exciting performances of the day came from a back of the packer. My sister Kathy came dangerously close to running her goal time of 4:00.00. 13 seconds close. She scored a major PR with her 4:00.13. I knew she was going after it, when, at mile 20, she unclasped her watch and flung it at me. "I can break 4 hours if I just stop looking at this thing," she told me between gasps of breath. "I'm running just over 9's, and I could bonk at any moment, but I'm going to try to keep it up." She had a focused aura about her despite my jogging next to her and frantically snapping photographs.

The men's race was more spread out. Ethiopian Deriba Merga made his move, and it didn't look like anybody was going to catch him. He was flying and his stride seemed to say, "There will be no repeat of Beijing today." Merga led much of the 2008 Olympic marathon before fading to 4th and finishing just out of reach of the podium. Hall pushed on through the rest of Comm Ave. and down Beacon, but Merga was just too strong on this day and gapped Hall by about a minute. At mile 20, one of America's favorite distance runners, 2008 Olympian Brian Sell was in a battle with Aussie Lee Troop. They were shoulder to shoulder cutting the tangents of Comm Ave and looking mean. Troop bested the future dentist (still Sell's plans?) by one spot as they came in 13th and 14th, 2:16.21 and 2:16.31.

Some local boys were also running fast through the communities of greater Boston. Leading the charge was New Balance Boston's Ryan Carrara. He was alone at 20, and that wind must've been killer without having a pack to break some of it. He ended up running 2:32.10 for a 5:48 pace. Not bad for a day's work. That was about the same pace Carrara ran in his Stu's 30k victory on March 1. Scott Leslie, who came in second at Stu's also had a good day in Boston yesterday. Two non-elite locals also faired well. Barrister Rob Sparkes ran 2:56.37 and John Pilkington posted a 3:58.14. I would've taken a few pictures of Sparkes, but he failed to tell me he was running.

So on a (head)windy, overcast day the Boston Marathon was again proved itself to be the granddaddy of them all. To see 60 photographs from the race, look to the top right of the page and click on the link.

As for me, I woke up at 10 of 6am and ran for 61 minutes on the trails of Adams Farm. A pretty small task in comparison to what the people above accomplished.


Kathy said...

Back of the packer?! I beat Bill Rodgers! :-)


Blaine Moore said...

Great race write-up! We were actually right near you, maybe a quarter to a third of a mile away.

It was a fun race to watch; I couldn't believe how large the women's pack was or that Colleen was leading it, and it was great to see Sheri run by. As usual, she was all smiles.

Ryan Hall just looked focused and Brian Sell looked as if he was in some major pain. He's certainly had smoother races.

I'm not so sure that the wind was a bad thing. It was strong enough to cool the body down (at least around miles 20-21) but not so strong that it was an insurmountable annoyance. I'd have loved to have run in Monday's conditions. (Of course, had I been running, the weather would have been different. 5 straight years can't be wrong, right?)

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