ODE TO THE BOSTON CHAMPION

Meb Boston 2014

Through clamorous towns at a headlong pace,

To the victory stand in Copley Place,

Where with arms spread wide, and

Church bells pealing,

You bear a wreath of glory,

Though head still reeling.

*

The distance you ushered,

The pain you endured,

Your flag now flutters,

Must all seem a blur.

 *

But the honor’s all yours,

This Patriot’s Day,

In this oldest of races,

As men shout, “Hooray!”

 *

And though crusted with salt,

Legs seized with fatigue,

The scene’s one to savor,

As you recall the intrigue. Continue reading

BAA 5K KICKS OFF MARATHON WEEKEND

BOSTON STRONG AT BAA 5K

BOSTON STRONG AT BAA 5K

Boston, MA. – It was an electric start to Boston Marathon weekend this morning as the BAA 5K sent a current of excitement through the bright morning sunshine along historic Charles Street. Defending men’s champion and Olympic silver medalist Dejen Gebremeskel of Ethiopia and U.S. record holder Molly Huddle used blistering late race kicks to win the opening race of Boston Marathon weekend in front of a record field of 10,000. The wins earned the champions $7500, while Gebremeskel took home an additional $5000 for the event record.

Gebremeskel barely inched out American star and native New Englander Ben True in a mad dash to the tape to set an event record 13:26.  True, the 2011 & 2012 BAA 5K champ, was clocked in the exact same time, while third-placer Stephen Sambu of Kenya was only one tick back in 13:27. The top five men all went under Gebremeskel’s old event record 13:37 set last year.

In the women’s race U.S. 5000 meter track record holder Molly Huddle, now of Providence, Rhode Island, came screaming from five meters back in the final 200 meters to blow past race leader Mamitu Daska of Ethiopia in 15:12, tying the event record set in 2012 by Ethiopia’s Werknesh Kidane.

A field double the size of last year took part in the opening event of marathon weekend under chilled but calm blue skies. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh sent the runners off for their 3.1 mile tour of the Back Bay, and the atmosphere of celebration and camaraderie was enveloping.

“I tried to push the first 1 or 2 kilometers,” said men’s champ Gebremeskel after his win. “But after I realized we could not run under 13:10, I was thinking of waiting until the final 400 meters. In the last 100 meters the American was very strong and pushing me. But this town in crazy with running. Every moment is the Boston Marathon. I like it very much. I have run races all over the world, but no place is like Boston. I would like to win the Boston Marathon one day.”

The BAA 5K is the opening race of the BAA Distance Medley, a series which includes the 5K, Boston Marathon, BAA 10K in June, and the BAA Half-Marathon in October. The winner of the series earns a bonus of $50,000.

“Gebremeskel and Sambu were making surges throughout,” said 2011 & 2012 BAA 5K champion Ben True a native of East Yarmouth, Maine who now trains in Hanover, N.H.  “I was sitting back and covering all the moves.  I was just trying to be the last one to make a move, hoping to get the jump on them in the final 80 meters, but I couldn’t.”

After finishing sixth at last year’s World Cross Country Championships in Poland, the Dartmouth grad has been trying to overcome a leg injury that was initially misdiagnosed. But now that he’s put some hard training weeks together, and been able to take on this strong a field, it’s no longer a surprise when the 28 year-old is running with (and beating) the best in the world.  The BAA 5K came off a win at the U.S. 15K championships at the Gate River Run in Jacksonville, Florida in March, while Gebremeskel came in off a fourth straight win at the super-fast Carlsbad 5000 two weeks ago in Southern California in 13:13.

With True’s continued emergence, and Molly Huddle’s win, the long battle to return American runners to the podiums of the world’s top races seems to be complete.

“I was a little surprised (with the win),” admitted Huddle at the award’s ceremony on the Boston Common. “I was thinking against this strong international field that anywhere from third to fifth would be a good place. But sometime you just have one of those days.”

U.S. Army Drum & Fife Corps

U.S. Army Drum & Fife Corps

In the aftermath of the 2013 tragedy at Boston, and last Monday’s Tribute ceremony commemorating its one year anniversary, one could feel the relief that racing was again taking center stage. With a bright sun shining on the weathered brick-face of Beacon Hill, and the U.S. Army Drum & Fife Corps playing tunes from the American Revolution, the sense of history was palpable. What a way to begin the weekend.

Later today the high school and professional road miles will be contested on Boylston Street, as the energy that has poured into the city begins to light up the roads once again.

MEN

1. Dejen Gebremeskel (ETH) – 13:26 (event record, old record 13:37 Gebremeskel 2013)
2. Ben True (USA) – 13:26
3. Stephen Sambu (KEN) – 13:27
4. Lani Rutto (KEN) – 13:30
5. Daniel Salel (KEN) – 13:31
6. Tyler Pennel (USA) – 13:42
7. Leonard Korir (KEN) – 13:44
8. Nick McCormick (GBR) – 13:45
9. Haron Lagat (KEN) – 13:46
10. Bobby Curtis (USA) – 13:47

WOMEN
1. Molly Huddle (USA) – 15:12
2. Mamitu Daska (ETH) – 15:14
3. Sentayehu Ejigu (ETH) – 15:16
4. Betsy Saina (KEN) – 15:16
5. Gotytom Gebreslase (ETH) – 15:17
6. Linet Masai (KEN) – 15:21
7. Lineth Chepkurui (KEN) – 15:35
8. Amy Van Alstine (USA) – 15:38
9. Emelia Gorecka (GBR) – 15:40
10. Amy Hastings (USA) – 15:45

BOSTON REMEMBERS

Boston's Old South Church

Boston’s Old South Church

The bell of Boston’s Old South Church tolled mournfully today at exactly 2:49 p.m. , commemorating the exact time one year ago that the first of two bombs went off at the Boylston Street finish of the Boston Marathon. As thousands gathered for what was billed as a Tribute, pewter-gray skies opened in memory of the four dead and hundreds injured.  Even so, a continuing sense of recovery suffused the crowd lining the roadway, some who had returned for the first time since April 15, 2013.

It was a somber day of remembrance coming just six days before the 118th running of the grand old race. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, along with Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and ex-mayor Tom Menino gave moving addresses, along with BAA executive race director Tom Grilk and four of the recovering victims of the bombing. Continue reading

IDLE BEACH THOUGHTS

Waikiki Beach

Waikiki Beach

Honolulu, Hawaii — We had surfed along the wave of technological advancement for so long that it became, along with rock `n` roll and fast food, a defining element of our Baby Boom generation. We grew up with pre-Michael Jackson moon walks, the Neil Armstrong kind, and the advent of Texas Instrument calculation over the analog slide rule means of computation. We were the cutting edge generation, the “teach your parents well” generation who easily identified with Peter Pan, because our perpetual youth had its bounty extended well into our adult years.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I got to the Outrigger Waikiki Hotel for this past weekend’s Hapalua, Hawaii’s Half Marathon, and discovered a lifetime of learning in need of sudden, irrevocable discard. Continue reading

2014 HAPALUA, THE CHASE

 

Prepping for Hapalua

7 of 800 Japanese runners ready for Hapalua

First group of Team Hawaii about to start along Waikiki Beach, including winner Eri MacDonald on far left

First group of Team Hawaii about to start along Waikiki Beach, including winner Eri MacDonald on far left

Honolulu, Hawaii — Hawaii’s First Family of running notched another victory today as 33-year-old Eri MacDonald won the third edition of The Hapalua, Hawaii’s Half Marathon in a unique Chase format that pitted the top island runners against three invited world-class runners from Kenya. Beginning 21-minutes ahead  of Patrick Makau and Peter Kirui, Eri ran 1:25:21, which adjusted to 1:04:21 at the Kapiolani Park finish. That was enough to complete the 13.1 mile loop 29-seconds ahead of Big island runner Rani Henderson, 38,  a three-time Honolulu Marathon Kama’aina (island) champion who began in the same group with MacDonald.  The victory garned a $5000 first-place prize.

Long-striding Kenyan star Peter Kirui came roaring from behind to catch all but the top two.  He posted a gun time of 65:45 over the Honolulu course which included two climbs of the Diamond Head crater in the final 6km.  

“It was fun,” said Macdonald,who was a 13-time Hawaii state high school cross country and track champion at Punahou High school. “I ran the first year, and it didn’t go very well, but I started with a good group today, then took the lead coming back down Diamond Head.” 

Hapalua Chase champion Eri MacDonald and proud dad Duncan.

Hapalua Chase champion Eri MacDonald and proud dad Duncan.

A practicing attorney Eri also assists her dad Duncan who is head coach at Punahou High.  The islands’ best pure runner, Duncan remains Hawaii’s only sub-4:00 miler. He was also the first three years champion of the Honolulu Marathon, and a 1976 US Olympian at 5000 meters.

*****

Isabella Ochichi starts with top Hawaiin male runners

Isabella Ochichi starts with top Hawaiin male runners Santillan and Villagran

Under the Chase format, 24 Team Hawaii athletes in six separate groupings took off 21 to 4 1/2 minutes before Patrick Makau and Peter Kirui.  Fellow Kenyan Isabella Ochichi was linked with the top two local men, Leandro Santillan and Fermin Villagran, both of Hawaii Pacific University.

With that competition Ochichi went out aggressively, while Kirui and Makau opened conservatively under windy but cool (for Hawaii) conditions.  They hit one mile in 5:14, then a modest 16:08 at 5km. That’s not even a very good women’s time on the mainland. But Makau, who was last year’s fastest finisher at 65:28, is still returning from a long injury layoff, and it was obvious Kirui was helping the former marathon world record holder through the opening miles.

By 5km Isabella had dropped her two male competitors on the way to a 33:07 10km split.  Kirui and Makau hit that mark in only 32:06, as they maintained 5:10 per mile, 3:10 per kilometer pace.   

“10km to 17km there was too much wind,” said Peter who last week cranked a 59:22 half marathon personal best in Prague in the Czech Republic. “I only ran 80% until 15km today, then 90% to the finish.  I had more energy catching people.  The format was very nice. I think it is possible to run 61 minutes or 62 minutes on this course.”

2004 Olympic 5000 meter women’s silver medalist Ochichi finished in 1:10:24 which netted 1:05:54 in the Chase format. It was the performance of the day, though still only fourth in the Chase competition behind MacDonald, Henderson and Kirui.

“I would think Isabella’s time is worth 68 minutes on the mainland on a flat course,” said her manager Zane Branson of International Athletics Consultancy (IAC).

Hapalua Top 10

Hapalua Top 10

Kirui finally left Makau at nine miles as the course entered Kapiolani Park (46:11, 4:58 mile). From there to the finish he gobbled up the front-runners in bunches, passing 15 of them in the final stretch up and over Diamond Head to the finish. He blitzed his final 5km in 14:07 ripping off 4:30 miles at the end.  Even so, Peter didn’t pass Isabella until the downside of Diamond Head just three minutes from the finish line in Kapiolani Park. It is the same finish she hopes to cross again in December at the Honolulu Marathon.

“The course was very scenic,”said Isabella whose bright smile and easy charm won her many new fans throughout her time in Honolulu.  “You enjoyed chasing people and having people chase you. I was running alone after 5km, so I said today it is me and my road. I want to come back with my family and after the race go to the beach.” 

Former marathon world record holder Patrick Makau finished 15th in 68:42, still on the long climb back to the top. “I don’t have any problem with my knee,” he said after surrendering three minutes to Kirui over the final 4.1 miles.  “My body responded, and I have confidence to go back home and train hard again.”

Light showers cooled the record 4600 starters, an increase from 3000 in 2013 and 2000 in the inaugural year.  800 Japanese runners made the trip, an increase of 400% over last year as the legacy of the Hapalua and the MacDonald family continues to grow on the islands.

END

CONNECTING AT THE HAPALUA

Peter, Patrick & Isabella Hangin' Loose at Paili Lookout

Peter, Patrick & Isabella Hangin’ Loose at Pali Lookout

Honolulu, Hawaii — After two days of sightseeing and public appearances, Patrick Makau, Peter Kirui, and Isabella Ochichi will get down to the business end of their trip to Honolulu Sunday morning as the 3rd Hapalua, Hawaii’s Half Marathon begins along Waikiki Beach (see start schedule below).

Makau ran the fastest time under 2013′s torrentialdownpour, 65:28, but because The Chase format was in play, where the top pros had to chase down 24 top local runners given head starts, Patrick only crossed the finish line in 16th place.

This year Makau is coming off an injury which derailed the rest of 2013, a year he saw his world record fall to countryman Wilson Kipsang in Berlin. The Hapalua will be Patrick’s first competition since a hollowed out 2:14 at the 2013 London Marathon last April.  He’s just now getting back to real training. Isabella Ochichi is on the comeback trail, too, after an endless seven year layoff.  With the Honolulu Marathon already on her December schedule, this first visit to Oahu is as much an audition as anything.  Strangely, there has never been a Kenyan women’s winner at the Honolulu Marathon.  The Hapalua will let her test the tropical conditions.  She is healthy now, but being sensible with her return to form.

Continue reading

HAILE CHALLENGES THE SPORT

Coming April 13, 2014

Coming April 13, 2014

Honolulu, Hawaii – Even as the Virgin Money London Marathon features a fearsome field of contenders for its 2014 edition this Sunday morning, former marathon world record holder, and Sunday London pacer, Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia has offered a bleak prognosis for the sport he bestrode for so many years.

“Athletics has to change a little bit, bring in new ideas, new concepts,” said the holder of 27 world records to the assembled London press corps. “Otherwise it’s going to be just a bit boring to watch.”

That’s a little ironic, perhaps, since Haile will play a key role in one of running’s most labored old ideas this Sunday morn, lead pacer in the marathon. New ideas? How about letting the athletes compete over the entire distance? Boring to watch? How about knowing for a certainty that NOTHING will happen for the first half of the race — Unless there is an error in judgement, like we saw in 2013 when they went through the half in 61:34, or in 2009 when they went through 10k in 28:30 on the way to the half in 61:36.  Those kind of errors just blow up the race, not the SOMETHING race organizers might be looking for.

Saying the health and well-being of the sport (meaning track & field) has been masked by the over-sized presence of Jamaican superstar sprinter Usain Bolt, Haile wondered what the sport would do in his absence?

“We have to upgrade the situation,” he concluded, “attract more of an audience (and give) what they like. We have to attract sponsors. If the sponsors think nobody cares about athletics, who is going to sponsor you?” Continue reading