Category: At the Races

PRIZE DOLLARS AND SENSE

Monday’s 122nd Boston Marathon was one for the ages.  Epic you might say. I’ve seen local Boston TV hurricane coverage in the past that looked less nasty than the conditions confronting the marathoners this Patriot’s Day. And in its wet, rain-blown aftermath, the stories are beginning to be told.

There’s a Facebook post today by our friend and colleague Jim Gerweck linking to a story about Jessica Chichester, the Broolyn nurse who finished fifth on Monday. another of the improbable top finishers in the women’s race after the conditions wiped out the invited stars. The FB thread debates what to do about the three women who started in Wave one at Monday’s marathon, some 28 minutes behind the ”Elites”, but in the carnage that ensued in the brutal conditions, posted finishing times that placed them “in the money”. 

Former Runners World staffer Parker Morse explained that, “by the rules they didn’t earn it (the prize money) and everyone saying “different race” is correct…

“I think the classy thing to do would be to pay out by the rules first, then make some “special and unusual” awards to those three women. The positive press would probably be worth more than the prize money. I don’t think I’d fault them for not doing that, though.”

I reached out to the B.A.A., and received the following from Mike Pieroni, the B.A.A. Athletic Performance Director:

“The Elite Women’s Start competition was implemented here in 2004 to highlight the head-to-head competition.  Every AWMM event, and other leading prize money races have virtually the same policy as ours.

“From our web-site, and used in individual communications to/from athletes requesting information:
The Boston Marathon includes a separate start for top female competitors. Performances from the Elite Women’s Start (EWS) will be scored separately from women starting in the open field.

“Open and masters division women who consider themselves eligible for prize money in the Boston Marathon must declare themselves as a contestant for the EWS start. They may email ews@baa.org for further details on format, eligibility, regulations, and instructions.

“Race officials can assist in determining which start – EWS or 10:00 a.m. – is most appropriate. Prize money will be awarded to contestants in the EWS only. Women who choose not to start in the EWS waive the right to compete for prize money. Timing and scoring is done by Gun time.”

Well, there you have it, the rule spelled out in full. There was a choice to be made.  And since some of the American women were hoping for an Olympic Trials qualifying time on Monday, sub-2:45, they chose to stay with Wave 1 where there would be a greater mass of runners, thereby helping them make their OT qualifier.

But, at the same time, there is historic precedent for such a “special award”.  Wesley Korir entered the 2008 Chicago Marathon on his own dime, because he couldn’t wrangle an invitation.  The 2007 graduate of the University of Louisville had been a multiple time All-American, finishing seventh at the 2007 NCAA D1 5000.  But with no road credentials to speak of,  he was forced to start with the masses five minutes behind the Elite field. 

2012 Boston Marathon champion Wesley Korir

Korir went on to win the mass race in 2:13:53, which turned out to be the fourth fastest time of the day overall.   

Chicago race director Carey Pinkowski took it all in, and in a gesture that said a lot about the guy, a former athlete himself, he quietly awarded equal fourth place money to Wesley ($15,000), even though, by rule, he didn’t have to.  It wasn’t done with any grand public fanfare, either, just out of a sense of fair’s fair. 

Of course, Wesley Korir went on to have a wonderful professional career, with back-to-back wins in Los Angeles, five more appearances in Chicago, including a 2:06:15 second place in 2011, and a career-defining win in the 2012 Boston Marathon. But Korir was not given a choice where to start in Chicago 2008, like all the women in Monday’s Boston Marathon were.  There’s your main difference.

The puddles are still drying in Boston, spring is still not in full bloom. The sport moves on, as it always does, this coming weekend to London.  Let’s see how things shake out after this most singular day in Boston Marathon history. Perhaps there are still stories to be written.

END

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INSTANT KARMA FOR DES LINDEN IN BOSTON

Boston, MA – According to Race director Dave McGillvray, 30,087 entered the 2018 Boston Marathon. 27,362 picked up their bib numbers. 27,042 started, and 95.5% of them finished, 25,882.  Another testament to the perseverance of the running community and especially the Boston qualifiers. One athlete showed particular, long term perseverance.

Des with John Hancock VP Rob Friedman and the fruits of her victory.

John Lennon wrote “Instant Karma”, and in her sixth try on the olde race course Des Linden experienced it yesterday. 

“I felt very bad early on,” the 2018 Boston Marathon women’s champion admitted at Tuesday morning’s press conference. “My gloves were saturated, I was making rookie mistakes. The day was setting up to be a disaster. So I thought, there was so much hype for the American women, let me help these guys out as long as I can.”

That’s why Des waited when Shalane Flanagan ducked into a porta-john between 11-12 miles as the course entered Wellesley. The pack was still only running 6:00 miles, so you could do your business and still have time to catch back up with a little help from a friend.

Then, when Ethiopia’s Mamitu Daska pulled away with a 5:31 14th mike, fastest of the day so far, Des thought she could help Molly Huddle bridge the gap by breaking the wind for her. Because that’s what compatriots do, even if they are opponents, too.

“But when I turned around, I saw I was pulling away from everyone. Everybody was having a tough day. And I figured this was still the quickest way to get home, even if I blew up.” (more…)

TIME FOR AN AMERICAN WOMAN’S WIN IN BOSTON

Boston MA – What were the Pilgrims thinking? Did you feel it? Yeah, that was springtime that blew through Boston yesterday for about two hours from 9 till 11 am. Then winter came roaring back on a raw, east wind that had everyone scrambling back to their hotel rooms for more hats, gloves and turtlenecks. And with rain and even sleet coming today with temperatures never out of the mid 30s, maybe we should be thankful that Monday’s 122nd Boston Marathon only predicts temps in the 40-50s with rain and strong headwinds.

But that’s New England, always something to overcome, from its rocky earth to its unrelenting winters. But as Boulder Wave Agency head Brendan Reilly, an old Bostonian himself, said to his client, defending women’s champ Edna Kiplagat, “three hours after the start somebody is going to be standing up on that podium with the mayor receiving a trophy as champion.  So it might as well be you.”

Defending Boston women’s champion Edna Kiplagat displays her race number

Good, stoic New England advice, that, but hard to implement just the same.  Though training has gone very well, Edna does not like cold and rainy conditions, only placing 14th in her tune up half marathon in Japan in 73:45.  “I never ran in snow before.” Just the same, this is the most accomplished runner in the field, so never write her off, even at age 38.

Since this Boston women’s field was first announced, the feeling that this would be the year for an American woman to win this race for the first time since Lisa Weidenbach (now Rainsberger) in 1985 has been strong. Now with the withdrawl of the Olympic silver medalist Eunice Kirwa of Bahrain, and slight injury reports on Ethiopians Mamitu Daska (slight ankle problem after 3rd in New York last fall) and Buzu Deba (missed a week of training with a tweaked left knee), that leaves 3x Dubai champion Aselefech Mergia, 2015 Boston champ Caroline Rotich, newcomer Gladys Chesir and defending champ Edna Kiplagat as the main challenge to the four top Americans. 

But Rotich has dropped out of the last two Bostons, and hasn’t popped a good one since she won in the cold and rain of Boston 2015.  For her part, though she carries a 2:19:31 best, Mergia ran her PR six years ago and has only run one non-paced marathon with hills in her career (2nd, 2015 NYC),

Gladys Chesir is a newcomer, but hasn’t shown to be a winner in her track and cross country career leading into her 2:24:51 2nd place debut in flat Amsterdam last fall. 

When was the last time it would have been considered an upset for an American woman not to win Boston?  Certainly never in the prize money era. But that’s where we are before Monday’s 122nd Boston Marathon. (more…)

BOSTON PRESSER 2018

Boston, MA. –  OK, quick analysis. I didn’t talk to everybody, because you simply can’t, too many people too little time. So for instance, I didn’t speak with the defending men’s champion Geoffrey Kirui, but assuming all is well with him, my first reaction is Rupp, Desisa, and Tamirat Tola. Those are the three that stood out in my conversations at the 33rd John Hancock elite athlete press conference at the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel for the 122nd Boston Marathon.

Peaking over the shoulder of John Hancock VP Rob Friedman as defending champ Geoffrey Kirui received his bib.

With Galen it’s, if not now, when?  This will be his fifth marathon, second Boston, perfect build up, great tuneup race, experience on this course, it’s all there. He’s the fastest track runner in the field, is coming off a win in Chicago, nobody can run away from him, higher mileage than ever, tons of 25-milers, it’s all in place. Now it’s just a matter of performing on the day, and he’s had a track record, including two Olympic medals, of doing that quite well.

“ I feel like this is what I’ve been working for my whole life,“ said Galen. “Like this window right now. It’s not that I’m nervous, but this is what I’ve been working for, all this training, to enjoy the fruits of that training.  I feel good for where I am. I’ve been consistent. It’s a testament to my training. I’m  proud of how consistent I’ve been. No excuses.  When you’ve done the work you know you will perform well.”

That’s as confident as a distance runner can talk. But why wouldn’t he?  Winner in his debut in the 2016 Olympic trials, third at the Rio Olympics, second last year in Boston when his build up wasn’t ideal, and then a winner in Chicago last fall. He’s in his peak years, afraid of no one, faster than everyone (except in the marathon) but expecting a good battle with Kirui and the Ethiopians.

Two-time Boston champ Lelisa Desisa (2013 & 2015) is another guy in his prime.  In 2015, he won Boston in 2:09:17 in conditions which may be similar to those coming Monday, wind and rain. That year he broke away between 22 and 23 miles coming down Beacon Street after making the first move in mile 17 after turning at the Newton fire station coming onto Commonwealth Avenue. He has run 13 career marathons, won three, and been on the podium 10 times.

True, he only ran 2:14 at last May’s Breaking2 Project in Monza, Italy – the special Nike-sponsored promotion – but that just tells me this guy is a racer, not a time trialer.  He also has a brand new daughter, Nege, just one month old to further motivate him.  Add a 60:28 tuneup race at the RAK Half in February in the UAE, and it’s all systems go.

Tamirat Tola is 26 and looks 22. He trains with 2016 Boston champ Lemi Berhanu, and I guess we shouldn’t overlook him, either. He ran 4th last fall in NYC after a cramp hit at 28k.  The two Ethiopians ran a final 40k run together with their 30-person training group on a course outside Addis Ababa that mirrors the Boston course.  Tola and Berhanu dropped  everyone else between 32-35k. They wouldn’t say which was stronger than the other. I guess we will find out Monday.

Tola was also the silver medalist in last year’s IAAF World Championship Marathon in London behind Geoffrey Kirui, then PR’d by five seconds this January in Dubai (2:04:06).

”I have trained very well to be the winner,”  he told me.  “I don’t think about weather, only competition.”

There is much more reporting to do, but we will let that settle in for a while.  I had a good chat with Desi Linden, Madai Perez, Kellyn Taylor and Jordan Hasay, as well. I’ll post something on the women’s race tomorrow.

Tonight at 5 pm Eastern I will be hosting a Runners Digest podcast for two hours on LETSRUN.COM where we will discuss much of what we learned at today’s  presser.  Join us if you can.  Toni out.

END

 

 

 

 

2018 HAPALUA HALF MARATHON REPORT

Honolulu, HI – Hapalua is the Hawaiian word for half, but today’s 7th Hapalua, Hawaii’s Half Marathon, was a full measure by anyone’s standards. Under unusually high humidity, defending champion Philip Tarbei of Kenya was able to overcome both the muggy conditions and the head starts afforded all 24 Team Hawaii runners to become the first person to win a second Hapalua title. His 64:14 winning time was 47-seconds slower than last year’s course record, and the outcome of the unique Chase format pitting Hawaii’s best against the Kenyan pros was not decided until the finish line banner came into view in Kapiolani Park.

Eventual champion Philip Tarbei closes in on Team Hawaii’s Patrick Stover in Kapiolani Park within sight of the finish.

“I was not sure I could win because of the high humidity,” said the 25 year-old Tarbei from Iten, Kenya, “I’ve never run in anything like this before.”

Though rain threatened throughout the morning, it never actually came. But in its stead, a heavy overlay of humidity clung to Oahu like a clammy shrink wrap, making racing conditions challenging for all 7000-plus starters.

After the 24 Team Hawaii runners took off from the pre-dawn Waikiki Beach start line on Kalakaua Avenue with leads of 24 to 8 minutes, Tarbei, his pacer Daniel Chebii and Kuaui native Pierce Murphy lit out giving Chase. (more…)

TOP HAWAII RUNNER TAKES ON KENYAN CHALLENGE

Hapalua chaser Pierce Murphy

Honolulu, HI – Tomorrow, the 7th Hapalua Half Marathon once again pits 24 of the top island runners against two invited world class Kenyans in a unique Chase format. But this year, the Kenyans will have local company for the first time. For how long will be the question.

24-year-old Pierce Murphy is hands-down the best runner to come off the Hawaiian islands since 1976 Olympian and three-time Honolulu Marathon champion Duncan McDonald. An eight-time All American at the University of Colorado, Kauai native Murphy has track PRs of 13:37 for 5000m and 28:48 over the 10,000. But he has only tried on the half-marathon distance one time before, that at the 2016 Los Angeles Rock ‘n’ Roll Half where he finished 2nd in a modest 67:47. He hopes to reduce that time tomorrow, even in the muggy conditions brought on by what locals call Kona conditions that have prevailed on Oahu all week.

“I like the longer stuff,” says Murphy. “The longer it is the harder it is, yes, but the easier it is in racing – if that makes any sense. You can cruise a 5K, but to do it 10 K, you have to train for the 10K. Hopefully, I can run in the 65s tomorrow, and if I feel good, maybe a little faster.”

Odds are he will have to post that time running a lot on his own. Last year splits of 14:40 and 28:48 for 5k and 10k led winner Philip Tarbei to a course record 63:27 in the Hapalua. But Pierce is used to running on his own. These days he does all his training alone, a habit he got into during his high school days on Kauai where he won numerous state crowns.

“I do about 80 miles a week consistently, and just tempo work on the roads, no track.” (more…)

NAMING MARATHONS

Image result for los angeles marathon 2018Yesterday, some 24,000 runners from all 50 states and a score of foreign nations ran the 33rd Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon under ideal conditions – 47F at the Dodger Stadium start near downtown, to just over 50F at the Santa Monica seaside finish.  Though the men’s and women’s pro races weren’t the burners one might have expected under such clement conditions, both gender leaders did stage dramatic late-race competitions worthy of a Hollywood script.  Behind them came thousands upon thousands of stories of desire, redemption, and the life-affirming embrace of a personal challenge met and overcome.

It has been said, “there is no pain that empowers like that of childbirth.”  Perhaps that is so, but under current species regulations, it remains beyond men’s capability to take on that task, and accordingly, we must accept the truth of it from the mouths of our mothers, wives, and daughters.

Beyond passing a kidney stone, then, perhaps the closest we men can come to the experience of childbirth is the pain of the marathon. For it has also been said, “you don’t run a marathon, you give birth to one”. (more…)