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.
Like many a Boston Marathon finisher, Shalane Flanaganwalked downstairs with a tender tred after the race. The Marblehead, Massachusetts native had attacked the old course with a willful intention on Patriot’s Day 2014, convinced that an unrelenting pace from the start would discourage her opponents and set her up for victory. But now, after the savage pace she set on the rolling hills from Hopkinton to Heartbreak Hill in Newton had shredded her quads, the walk downstairs from the VIP room of the House of Blues to the main stage for that night’s award ceremony was proving to be yet another painful journey.
Once on stage, the top ten women were presented to the boisterous crowd. Shalane was number seven. Then, as the champion (now confirmed drug cheat) Rita Jeptoo of Kenya basked in the spotlight and applause gowned up like a beauty pageant contestant, Shalane stood behind her still unrelenting, still feisty and unbowed.
“You’re welcome,” Shalane said tartly from behind as I introduced Jeptoo to the crowd. We heard her. It was an acknowledgment that Flanagan knew exactly what role she had played in the fastest Boston Marathon in history, her own 2:22:02 time in seventh being the fastest ever by an American in Boston.
The plan for Boston 2014 had been set months in advance by Shalane and her Bowerman Track Club coach Jerry Schumacher. And to a degree, it had worked, delivering the 33-year-old to the Boylston Street finish line in exactly the time she was trying to achieve. Unfortunately, it was nearly four minutes behind the drug queen, and two minutes off that which Buzunesh Deba of Ethiopia fashioned in second place – 2:19:59.
“When I first heard of Jeptoo (drug bust),” remembered Shalane, “I was angry. But then I was relieved. I could do that two minutes.”
And she nearly did, six months later in Berlin, again gunning for time rather than place. This time it was Deena Kastor‘s American record 2:19:36 from London 2006. (more…)
On that bright but chilly (38°F) November morning, I had the catbird seat aboard the NBC lead men’s TV motorcycle as the 2002 New York City Marathon entered its critical stage coming off the Queensboro Bridge at mile 16. The final pace-setter, the metronomic Joseph Kariuki of Kenya, had just pulled off leaving the pack edgy, crackling with energy as Manhattan’s First Avenue stretched ahead like a provocation with all the history, speed, and power it portended. Amidst the lead group ran marathon debutant Meb Keflezighi, the U.S. record holder at 10,000 meters (27:13). The day before Meb’s long-time coach Bob Larsen told me Meb would go with the pace until First Avenue then decide what to do.
The resurrection of American distance running had begun to take shape in that fall of 2002. Following successful maiden marathons by Dan Browne at Twin Cities (1st, 2:11:35) then Alan Culpepper in Chicago (6th, 2:09:41, tying Alberto Salazar’s American debut record from New York 1980) the anticipation for Meb’s debut in New York City was running sky high.
Sweeping off the bridge first sped Rodgers Rop of Kenya, third in NYC the year before, and reigning Boston Marathon champion. By 66th Street Rop had a five-second gap, leaving remnants of the pack receding like fading dust motes. Mile 17 fell in 4:36.
Realizing the danger, Boston runner-up Christopher Cheboiboch, 2:06:33 South African Gert Thys, and Kenyan deb Laban Kipkemboi bridged up to cover Rop’s move. And then Meb came rushing up hard from behind to join the fray. Decision made! He was going! The crowd bellowed its approval. Next, amidst a 4:40 18th mile, Meb surged to the front, not satisfied just to answer, he was anxious to dictate policy.
“I remembered that Salazar had won New York in his debut,” recalled Meb years later. “And maybe I got too emotional.”
Rodgers Rop went on to win that 2002 race in New York in 2:08:07 to join Bill Rodgers (1978 & `79), Alberto Salazar (1982) and Joseph Chebet (1994) as the only men to win Boston and New York in the same year (in 2011 Geoffrey Mutai would join the club).
Meb took a full 35 minutes and change for his final 10K (5:40/mi. pace). Chilled to the bone, he arrived in ninth place in 2:12:35. Afterwards, his mother Awetash made him swear he would never do THAT again. (more…)
Cape Elizabeth, ME – 33 years ago on August 5th a young woman from Cape Elizabeth, Maine wrote her name indelibly into athletics history by winning the inaugural Women’s Olympic Marathon in Los Angeles. She trained for that effort along the streets of her hometown, streets that this August 5th will play host to the 20th running of one of the nation’s premier 10k road races.
The TD Beach to Beacon 10k began as a great notion that over its two decade life has lived up to its founder’s hopes and more. Joan Benoit Samuelson‘s hometown race has proven to be among the new American road race classics, taking its place alongside such legendary first boom generation runs like the Falmouth Road Race on Cape Cod and the Bix 7 Road Race in Daveport, Iowa, races Joanie helped put on the map with her victories and personality.
For its 20th running, 117 legacy runners and five former champions lead thousands more on the trek from near Crescent Beach to the Portland Head Light in Ft. Williams Park. Local star Ben True will attempt to defend his title from 2016, when he became the first American to win the prestigious international race. But Ben will have his hands and legs full. (more…)
Davenport, IA. – As race director extraordinaire Ed Froelich quipped, “even when it’s an American championship, Kenyans win.”
True enough, the 43rd Quad City Times Bix 7 Road Race hosted the USATF 7 Mile Road Championship yesterday for the fifth time, and two Kenyan-born Americans took home top honors, Sam Chelanga for the men, and Aliphine Tuliamuck for the women. And none of the competitors in the two pro fields could have been more thankful or gracious in victory. (more…)
Before America’s Civil War people said ‘the United States of America ARE’, thinking of the country as primarily an aggregate of individual states rather than a single national entity. Only after Robert E. Lee‘s surrender at Appomattox and the re-knitting of the Confederate States into the union did people begin to say, “the United States of America IS”.
The difference is subtle but instructive. For one might equally argue that the Abbott World Marathon Majorscontinue to be more an aggregate of independent events rather than a coherent series made up in six parts. They (as opposed to it) have unfortunately found their time together also running concurrent to a tainted era in the sport, as now four of their women’s series titles have fallen to doping disqualifications – that’s two Lilya Shobukhova’s , one Rita Jeptoo, and now one (sample A) Jemima Sumgong doping positives that have marred what was intended to be series celebrating athletic excellence.
Is it any surprise then that the six AWMMs just this year decided to draw down their top prize for Series XI beginning this weekend in London by half from $500,000 to $250,000, while earmarking a new $280,000 to charity? Yes, they have also included smaller payouts to second and third prizes in the series, $50,000 and $25,000, but overall the runner’s purse has been cut 35%.
Hard to argue the move. You can’t keep publicly awarding prizes that a year later you have to take back because your winners have tested positive for banned performance enhancers. That’s not the message you want to be announcing. After getting burned so many times it’s not so much a sport right now as much as it is a big mess. And historically you sweep messes away.
I have already written how the sport might bolster its attack on the doping problem by increasing blood testing of the athletes till their arteries collapse – TESTING: PUTTING THE MONEY WHERE IT NEEDS TO BE – but let’s also look to the WMM competitions themselves. Boston down, London next. (more…)
There is no champion like time itself. Nothing moves as swiftly, nor as relentlessly. It will outrun us all one day. Yet it is hard to believe it has been thirty years since Joan Benoit won the inaugural Women’s OIympic Marathon in Los Angeles, California August 5, 1984. But calendars are rather dispassionate, not in the habit of subjective reckoning.
In the dark ages before the internet, or wide spread coverage of running, when Joan raced to a 2:22:43 win at the 1983 Boston Marathon — nearly three minutes faster than Norwegian great Grete Waitz’s world record set the day before in London at 2:25:29 — there were many who chose to believe there were other factors in play beyond the steely-eyed drive and talent of the Cape Elizabeth, Maine native.
This past week as Joanie welcomed thousands of runners to her 17thTD Beach to Beacon 10K, the hometown race she founded that traverses one of her old training loops, it is particularly timely to look back to where we stood those 30 years ago when women were about to first express their talents over the classic Olympic running distance. (more…)