The skies are leaden, and the rain is pelting down. It must be Boston Marathon time again. The 115th marathon week kicks off today at the Reggie Lewis Center where former Boston champions Bill Rodgers, Greg Meyer, Joan Samuelson, and Catherine Ndereba join defending men’s champion Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot in a series of running clinics given to area high school students chosen for their leadership by their track team coaches. 15 Boston high schools will be represented.
It was announced earlier this week that four-time Boston Marathon champion Bill Rodgers will serve as this year’s Grand Marshal for the marathon. Hard to imagine that “Boston Billy”, whose pied piper role during the original running boom years of the 1970s helped generate the massive interest in long distance running which continues to this day, is now 63 and riding in the back of a pace car. Bill last ran Boston in 2009 in 4:06:49. He will tour the route in the Nissan pace car fronting the race on Monday, and wish he was still tucked into that lead pack.
Ever the fierce competitor, Joanie Samuelson will lace up her racing shoes for the first time in Boston since 1993 as she attempts to qualify for her eighth Olympic Trials Marathon. She needs a 2:46 to qualify for next January’s Trials in Houston, Texas. She came close last fall in Chicago on the 25th anniversary of her 2:21:21 American record win in 1985. But her 2:47:50 fell short of a qualifying time though it did break her own American 50-54 year old record.
Of course classic Joanie, she went out like a banshee in Chicago, hitting splits of 37:22 at 10k and 1:21:50 at halfway, reminiscent of her world record 2:22:43 in Boston 1983 when she passed 10k in sub-33 and the half in 1:08:22.
“Boston is special race for me,” said Samuelson. “The crowds know and appreciate the athletes competing and their accomplishments, and they never disappoint with their encouragement and enthusiasm. I look forward to experiencing their energy and excitement on Patriots’ Day.”
If she can just keep her adrenalin under control. But that wouldn’t be Joan, would it?
Tomorrow the entire Kenyan contingent running Boston 2011, 18 strong, will be driven out to Hopkinton, Mass., historic starting town of the marathon. There they will join second and third graders at the Elmwood School for the 19th straight Kenyan Day pep rally. Not just a single morning’s celebration, Elmwood students use Kenya as a focal point for classes in reading, writing, math, and social sciences throughout the year.
“We’ve been through almost an entire generation now,” said Tim Kilduff, director of the Hopkinton Athletic Association, who co-founded the event with then-superintendant of Hopkinton schools Bill Hosmer and John Hancock Financial Services. “It was supposed to be the start of a connection between each city along the marathon route and one of the other nations sending elite athletes. Hopkinton took to the idea instantly. It’s very emotional how these kids respond to the Kenyan athletes. Kids from college come back, and say that Kenyan Day was one of the highlights of their entire Hopkinton school experience.”
With Sunday’s third annual BAA 5k now offering prize money to go along with it’s Invitational Mile which follows on Sunday morning, the BAA under new executive director Tom Grilk continues to ramp up toward New York Road Runner levels of year-long community involvement and racing opportunities. The 5K joins the recently announced BAA 10K scheduled for June, and the popular BAA Half Marathon in October on the race schedule. Here’s hoping the BAA continues with this welcomed trend.
Below is a Hopnews.com Youtube report on last year’s Kenyan Day celebration.