Category: At the Races

2018 TD BEACH TO BEACON 10k PHOTO ESSAY

Cape Elizabeth, ME –  The 21st TD Beach to Beacon 10k presented the 7000 starters with the dreaded double of heat and humidity today, making for wet-banklet-like conditions over the rolling 6.2 mile run from Crescent Beach to Fort Williams Park.  Despite the oppressive conditions, New Zealander Jake Robertson arrived from his training base in Iten, Kenya anxious to take on the 2003 course record 27:28 set by Kenya’s Gilbert Okari in the first of three straight B2B wins.  Here are a series of photos from the lead men’s vehicle documenting the effort of Mr. Robertson and his followers.

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The finish line awaits at Ft. Williams Park , shot taken Friday at the B2B High School Miles
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The air horn sends the 7000 person field to their task at 8:12 a.m.
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Jake Robertson spoke of wanting to break the course record at the pre-race press conference, and put the boot in from the get-go, not waiting for any help. He used similar gun-to-tape tactics to win April’s Crescent City Classic in New Orleans in 27:28.
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No prisoners! A 4:15 first mile opened the winning gap. 2016 U.S. Olympian Shadrack Kipchirchir tried to follow, “but Jake was very tough.” You might think so after he knocked off five Kiwi national records in a six-week span early in the year, including a 60:01 win at the Houston Half Marathon.
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Mile 2 fell in 4:25 (8:40) and the road behind was already clear. “At the start Jake said, ‘are you ready to go with me, I’m going from the gun,“ said Steven Sambu, last year‘s fourth place B2B finisher and four-time Falmouth Road Race champion. “I said, ‘OK, let’s go.’ Then the 1st mile in 4:15, and in these conditions, it’s crazy! Way too fast for me.“
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Past 3 miles in 13:01 (4:21), 5K in 13:30 with a :34 lead on Sambu and Kipchirchir, Robertson was still rocking course record pace as he turned onto Shore Drive for the next three miles.
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4 miles fell in 17:31 (4:29) 16 seconds under course record pace. We could barely see Sambu and Kipchirchir in the distance with 2016 B2B champion Ben True moving into fifth behind Ethiopian Amedework Walelegn,  himself a 59;50 half-marathoner.
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Stern faced at 5 miles in 21:59, Jake took 4:28 for that 1609 yards, while Gilbert Okari ran a 4:16 in 2003. Only :04 under course record pace now, and paying the price for his early aggression and the high humidity. “At about 7.2 km I began to feel the conditions, “said Jake afterward. “I knew I had a gap and the win, but I came here on behalf of my family, my training partners, my sponsors, and everyone who supports me. Everyone has been so good to me in my time here in Maine, I wanted to give a performance that everyone was happy with.”
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Victory in hand! 27:37, tied for the third fastest time in B2B history. In these muggy conditions, Jake slowed over the final mile, but still won by 50-seconds, the largest margin in race history.  “I’m happy,” Jake told me in the media tent. “I was fearless and I delivered. If you set your mind to something and then deliver, you have to be satisfied. Sadly, no course record, but I gave it my best and I never want to give it anything but my best. ‘To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift’ is a Steve Prefontaine quote that I love. Hopefully, I can return to Cape Elizabeth next year and get that course record.”
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Race founder and 1984 Olympic Marathon gold medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson greets a wobbly champion after his heroic effort.
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Fully recovered, Jake cheers in Stephen Sambu and Maine native Ben True in 2nd and 3rd. “I’m so happy for Jake,” said Stephen after checking the final times. “The way he trains, very serious. It’s amazing.” And that’s coming from the four-time Falmouth Road Race champion.
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A Viking ship sailed over Casco Bay behind the awards ceremony with Ram Island Light in the distance as another classic B2B was celebrated by the thousands lucky enough to have shared the course with some of the best foot-racers in the world. Thanks to the sponsors and record 878 volunteers who made it all possible. And to the host families who share their homes and hearts with all the invited runners. That’s olde tyme New England road racing at its best.

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2018 TD BEACH TO BEACON 10K – TALES OF TWO FAVES

Cape Elizabeth, ME –  A race is all about urgency, whether along the cutting edge of competition itself, or in the honing of that edge leading up to the moment when the starter raises his/her arm and a hush falls over the assemblage.  

Every training session, then, every meal, every elimination, every hour of sleep is oriented against that unrelenting time frame. Yet, not all races are created equal, meaning one racer’s focus may be another’s stepping stone. 

Tomorrow’s 21st annual TD to Beach to Beacon 10K is one such dual purpose race. Two of the favorites going in are 2016 champion and last year’s runner-up Ben True, the North Yarmouth, Maine native who returns home from the European Diamond League track circuit, and New Zealand’s Jake Robertson who’s coming off a two month training stint at his home base in Iten, Kenya. 

“Not as 10k specific,” is how Ben True characterizes his condition for tomorrow’s race. “I want to do well in the (5000m) Diamond League Final in Brussels later this month. So I haven’t tapered down for this. It will be interesting to see how the legs are tomorrow.”

American record holders Ben True and Molly Huddle

Yet True, 32, the former Dartmouth College All-American, always performs well in his home state’s most prestigious race. In 2008 and 2009 he won the Maine resident’s title. Then, he returned as a pro in 2014 to place third in 27:50 – the fastest road 10K by an American in 29 years – before winning the race outright in 2016 (28:16), the first American to take the B2B title. Finally, he finished one second behind Kenya’s Stephen Kosgei-Kibet last year in 27:55. (more…)

AVOIDING SUMMER CHORES

For all the attention the spring and fall marathons attract, there is a red, white, and blue, freshly mown grass quality to the U.S. summer road circuit, something purely American akin to Broadway musicals like The Music Man and Oklahoma! 

Mighty Mississippi River flowing south past Bettendorf, Iowa

Last weekend was the quintessentially Mid-American Quad City Times Bix 7 Road Race in Davenport, Iowa, celebrating its 44th anniversary. During my 26th year at the Bix, I was brought back once again to the charms of that great rolling land with its open , friendly faces, wide front lawns, and the smell of freshly mown grass. It is a deeply seeded memory anchored in my own Midwestern upbringing down the Mississippi River in St. Louis.

But just as dearly as I loved the loamy fragrance of a freshly cut lawn, even more did I hate the chore that brought it about.  But since most parents in those less-child-centric times still ruled with an unbending hand and believed in the Emersonian qualities of hard work, I was forced on many occasions into action not of my choosing with implements of yard work in my bony little hands.

This dichotomy, then, between parental will and my own private interests became the motivation that led me to a system whereby my desire not to do such things as yard work would supersede their need for my household contributions.  I found it to be a design for a mostly chore-free childhood existence.  I’ll explain. (more…)

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.

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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.

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