They battled valiantly to 10th and 11th places at the 2012 Women’s Olympic Marathon in London last summer, finishing just 16-seconds apart. Last night training mates Shalane Flanagan and Kara Goucher tuned their racing engines for the April 15th Boston Marathon at the Cardinal Invitational in Palo Alto, California.
Racing over 10,000 meters, Flanagan soloed to an evenly paced 31:04.85 win, ripping off consistent 75-second quarters before capping the night with a 69-second final 400. Kara, exceeding expectations, produced a negative split 31:46.64 to take second place, just missing the World Championship “A” standard 31:45 with a cracking 68-second last lap.
There are 17 days left till Boston. Marblehead, Mass. native Flanagan will be making her hometown debut, while Ms. Goucher will be starting her third Patriot’s Day 26-miler. Each hopes to break the U.S. string of futility at Boston marked from Lisa Larsen Weidenbach’s 1985 victory. It’s understandable having grown up on Boston’s North Shore that Shalane would have proprietary feelings for the race and the area, but Kara isn’t to be discounted in that sphere, either, writing “I have a crush on Boston….”
While training and racing fashions come and go in the insulated world of distance running, in recent times marathoners have been sticking to the half-marathon as their sole prep race for the full distance, even as many East Africans simply forego any tune up race what so ever. Yet there is precedent for both 10k road and 10,000 track racing (and longer) as a useful Patriot’s Day precursor.
Boston native Alberto Salazar famously staged his own 10,000 meter race at Eugene, Oregon’s Hayward Field eight days before the 1982 Boston Marathon. Though he was out kicked by Kenyan great Henry Rono, 27:29 to 27:30, the effort set Salazar up well for his “Duel in the Sun” against Minnesota’s Dick Beardsley in Boston. Al’s refrain throughout the brutal final seven miles when Dick was putting the hurt on him like never before was, “I’m a better runner than this guy.” That 10,000 meter trial against Rono wasn’t just a physical sharpener, it gave Al the mental boost he needed when times were at their most dire in Boston.
Women’s marathon world record holder Ingrid Kristiansen of Norway came to Boston early in 1989 to race one week before that year’s Marathon. A course record 30:58 over the quick Milk Run 10K was the confidence builder she needed for her shot at history’s first sub-2:20 women’s marathon. Though she attacked early, hitting five miles in 26:00 and the half in 1:09:44, warm temperatures and the lack of competition – friend and rival Joan Samuelson was doing television coverage coming back from her second heel surgery – kept Special K from her ultimate goal. Though twice she wore the champion’s olive wreath in Boston, 1986 & `89, both with 2:24 times, she never got the marathon gods to bless her with the conditions necessary to translate her track speed over the marathon distance beyond her 2:21:06 record in London 1985.
And if you think 25 laps over the 400 meter oval is a brain buster, how about 75? On February 21, 1979 Bill Rodgers ran a world record 1:14:12 for 25 kilometers at West Valley College in Saratoga, California. He cooled down to an American record 1:31:50 for 30K. Two months later Bill won his third Boston Marathon title in an American record 2:09:27 over Japanese star Toshihiko Seko. Two years later on March 22nd Seko returned the favor, clocking world records of 1:13:56 for 25K and 1:29:19 over 30K on a track in Christchurch, New Zealand. Less than a month later Seko took down Rodgers’ Boston Marathon record by a single second in 2:09:26. Rodgers came home in third behind Illinois’ Craig Virgin.
Long distance track racing isn’t just a good physical tune up. 6.2 miles over a 400 meter oval is much more strenuous mentally than 6.2 miles over open road. While Shalane Flanagan and Kara Goucher will face stern competition on April 15th, their efforts last night in Palo Alto are firm indicators that Coach Jerry Schumacher has them both physically and mentally prepared. Let’s see how it translates this time on Patriot’s Day.