Monday, April 18, 2011

What did we learn about the Boston Marathon? My two cents' worth on the race...

I must admit that there will be a buzz about Monday's Boston Marathon for many months to come.

The weather conditions on the hallowed Hopkinton to Boston route were ideal for those athletes battling it out over the 42.195 kilometer distance (that's 26.2 miles), with an essentially downhill course, and the benefit of a tailwind pushing the runners to the finish.

With apologies to Jesse Squire, who writes and produces the excellent "Track & Field Superblog", what did we learn from Monday's Boston Marathon?

1) I love the attitude that Arizona State grad Desiree Davila (left/photo by Paul Merca) took going into the race.

In her post race press conference, she said "We knew what kind of time could contend here. Main goal was to learn how to run up front, to learn how to win."

“I gave it all I had. It was the most incredible experience of my running career. My legs were shot. There was nothing left.”

Davila Monday ran the third fastest time in the event by an American, finishing in 2:22:38, two seconds short of the victory, battling eventual winner Caroline Kilel of Kenya to the tape, and only trailing Deena Kastor and the legendary Joan Benoit Samuelson on the American all-time list under all conditions.

When I saw the quote from Davila reposted on Twitter by Hanson's/Brooks Distance Project teammate and reader of the blog Jenny Scherer, I replied, "as much of a wack job as Charlie Sheen's been, I applaud Desi's mentality- #winning. More USA runners need to have (that) mindset (of winning)"

To follow up on my statement, I've always felt that the perceived inferiority complex that seemed to permeate elite American distance runners had to change if they were ever to compete against the world's best.

Starting with Meb Keflezighi and Kastor in 2004 at the Olympics, Kara Goucher in 2007 at the world championships, and Shalane Flanagan in the Beijing Olympics, more and more American distance are taking the mentality that they can compete with the world's best on the biggest stages of the sport.

Although she came up short, that winning mentality is going to take Davila a long way at the international elite level.

2) Despite a fourth-place finish, Ryan Hall made the race honest, clocking the fastest time ever by an American, 2:04:58.

Hall led the race at the half-way mark in 61:58.

He said afterwards, "I didn't plan on going through the half in under 62," he said.

"But the weather was great, I felt good, and the guys were helping to push the pace. I figured I'd be aggressive, get some quicker splits and try to get ahead of schedule, and we definitely did that."

Winner Geoffrey Mutai of Kenya, who ran an unbelievable 2:03:02, said "He (Hall) made the race fast for all of us."

"Once I got in front I felt good and kept pushing. It is easier for me to run by myself and keep my own pace, and not respond to other runners."

3) Despite the aiding wind, altitude drop, and point-to-point course (none of the times from Monday's race will count for world record purposes), we must celebrate the fact that that was one hell of a marathon race.

According to the rules of the I.A.A.F., marathon records must be set on a loop course instead of a point-to-point course, meaning that the starting point and the finish line cannot be farther apart than 13.1 miles, or 50% of the race distance.

The I.A.A.F. rules also state that the overall decrease in elevation from a course's start to finish can't be greater than one meter per kilometer, or about 138 feet. The Boston course descends about 470 feet.

The athletes know the rules going into the Boston race.

As I told a friend of mine in an email exchange, these are great times, and we should celebrate the accomplishments of these athletes. However, the times run in Boston today are like sprint marks set in Mexico City or El Paso, and jump marks in Sestriere, Italy--aided.

Using the sprints analogy, I compared what Mutai ran today to Usain Bolt running a 9.4-something in Mexico City with a maximum allowable 2.0 meter per second tailwind.

4) Especially on the women's side, the 2012 US Olympic marathon trials in Houston on January 14th could be one hell of a race!

Unlike the 2000 US Olympic Trials in Columbia, South Carolina, which was the nadir in American women's marathoning, when this country sent only one athlete to the Olympics, some talented sub 2:30 marathoner is going to be left home.

America's best marathoners since 2010 are Davila, Goucher (who by the way set a personal best of 2:24:52 Monday in fifth), Magdalena Lewy-Boulet (2:26:22 from last year's Rotterdam Marathon); Amy Hastings (2:27:03 in her debut last month in Los Angeles); Shalane Flanagan (2:28:40 in New York last year, and oh by the way, the American record holder in the 10000, bronze medalist at the Olympics in the 10000, and the third place finisher at last month's world cross country championships); Stephanie Rothstein (2:29:35 this year in Houston); and a name American marathon fans better learn after her run in Boston on Monday, Clara Grandt, who ran 2:29:54 in her debut at the distance, placing 16th and finishing as the third American behind Davila and Goucher.

To quote a great American philosopher, Bart Scott of the New York Jets. "Can't wait!"

1 comment:

The Track & Field Superfan said...

I can't claim any originality on that line. I stole it myself. It's a melding of lines commonly used by several Sports Illustrated online columnists.

I agree completely with issue #1. If you come to the start line afraid of the competition, you've lost before the gun ever goes off. Only a fool doesn't respect the other runners, but if you think they're flat-out better than you it's all over.

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