Tag: John Hancock Financial Services

TIME OF SECONDARY IMPORTANCE IN BOSTON

Boston, MA. – The clock. Yes, the clock. We watch it incessantly as it ticks relentlessly. But just like how three-point shots in basketball are worth noting – like last night when Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry passed Ray Allen for the most three-pointers made in playoff history – they aren’t the most important numbers. That designation falls into the category of wins and losses, like how the Warriors beat the L.A. Clippers 121 – 104 in game one of their opening round NBA playoff series.

In that sense, time is only of secondary importance in the outcome of a marathon like Boston, a classic race over a difficult course, unpredictable weather, and an absence of pacesetters.

As was proven again in 2018 with wild, wind-driven rain, Boston is primarily a race against other runners with the clock no more than an impassive attendant to the human drama. So while much of the marathon world focuses on the clock, at times slavishly so, Boston concentrates on racers.    (more…)

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2019 BOSTON PRESS DAY

Boston, MA – Other than too many people and not enough time, it all went perfectly well at the John Hancock elite athlete press conference for the 123rd Boston Marathon this morning at the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel.

It was like old home week. There was Rob de Castella the 1986 champion here with his indigenous running team from Australia. There was ‘83 champ Greg Meyer hanging out with fellow Grand Rapids Michigander Dathan Ritzenhein. And three time women’s champion Uta Pippig with a wave and a hug still mourning the passing of her father.  Everywhere you looked was an old friend. 

But this was not a day to simply chat about yesterday. This was a press conference to see who might do what on Monday from Hopkinton to Boston. (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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BOSTON ASSEMBLES STRONG AMERICAN FORCE FOR 2017

President-elect Donald Trump won this year’s divisive U.S. presidential campaign in part by touting an “America First” agenda.  Seems he isn’t the only one thinking about the home team.

Lest we forget, the Boston Marathon is contested on Patriots Day, an April holiday in Maine and Massachusetts commemorating the 1775 Battles of Lexington and Concord, the first military engagements of the American Revolutionary War.  Accordingly, Boston’s marathon in its early years was known as “The American Marathon”.

For the last generation, however, The American Marathon, like all marathons around the world, has become the exclusive province of athletes from East Africa.  So overwhelming has the transfer of power become that the sight of American Meb Keflezighi pulling out a victory in 2014 was so unusual, such a welcome surprise, that even runner-up Wilson Chebet of Kenya joked, “I would have been the most hated man in Boston if I had caught Meb.”  Keflezighi’s 11-second victory became the marathon equivalent of the Boston Red Sox World Series baseball win a decade earlier, as each snapped losing streaks of historic proportions.

Though Meb’s win in Boston was the first by an American in 31 years, even before Patriot’s Day 2014 there had been a resurgence in American running, in no small measure due to Keflezighi’s silver medal in the Athens Olympic Marathon 2004 and his New York City Marathon victory in 2009.  Still, even with the occasional peak performance by Meb or Ryan Hall, there was no lessening of the East African domination, either. But the spirit of Meb’s win in 2014, and game challenges by Hall, local-born Shalane Flanagan and fellow Olympian Desi Linden (2nd, 2011) in the women’s races had whetted the locals appetite for more.

This week Boston’s major sponsor John Hancock Financial Services announced their American field for Patriots Day 2017, and it is as strong a home contingent as the old town has seen since the U.S. Women’s Olympic Trials were contested in Boston in 2008.  While the international field has yet to be announced beyond defending champion Lemi Berhanu Hayle of Ethiopia, and 2012 champion Wesley Korir of Kenya, the American lineup will prove formidable. Five of the six 2016 U.S. Rio Olympic marathoners were announced, led by Boston debutant and Olympic bronze medalist Galen Rupp (a man coached by 1982 Boston champion and local product Alberto Salazar), 2014 champ Keflezighi, Utah’s Jared Ward, Marblehead, Mass. favorite Shalane Flanagan, and the aforementioned Desi Linden. (see linked JH announcement for full U.S. field) (more…)

2016 BOSTON MARATHON PRESSER

Olympians Shalane Flanagan, Amy Cragg and Joan Samuelson talking prospects in Rio where Amy & Shalane just visited.
Olympians Shalane Flanagan, Amy Cragg and Joan Samuelson talking prospects in Rio where Amy & Shalane just visited.

Boston, Ma. –  U.S. Olympians Shalane Flanagan, Amy Cragg, Meb Keflezighi and Ryan Hall were an added attraction at today’s 2016 Boston Marathon elite athlete press conference. But with the top end Americans resting from February’s Olympic  Trials and preparing for Rio Games this summer, there are fewer marquee names in this year’s marathon field. Plenty of very fast runners, mind you, just not a lot of star power.

The biggest story in Boston 2016 is probably Lelisa Desisa’s attempt at a third BAA crown.  The 26 year-old Ethiopian has won two of his three Boston starts, 2013 and 2015. Only a DNF in Meb’s year of 2014, when Desisa stepped on a water bottle at 25K forcing him from the race at 35K, has seen him off the winner’s stand.  And speaking to his coach Haji Adillo, and his manager Hussein Makke, Desisa is laser focused on that three-peat.

“He is in top form,” said Coach Adillo, “better than ever, more mileage than before.  But after the World Championships (7th in Beijing in August) and third place at New York, we said, ‘enough’.  So we took it easy after November with only one race scheduled before Boston.”

Lelisa won that race, the Aramco Houston Half Marathon in January in a fine 60:37, showing he is in perfect position to become the ninth runner to take three Boston wins in a career, and first since Robert Cheruiyot won the third of four in 2007.

But Boston is a tricky race with no pacesetters, and a course as undulant as a Moroccan belly dancer.  (more…)

MO FARAH TO RUN HALF OF LONDON’S MARATHON: GOOD IDEA?

Mo Farah
Mo Farah

Britain’s double Olympic track champion Mo Farah begins the re-landscaping of his career toward the marathon this weekend when he competes in New Orleans at the Rock `n` Roll Half Marathon.  It will be the second competitive half-marathon of Farah’s career. The 2012 Olympic 5000 & 10,000 champion won the 2011 New York City Half Marathon in his debut in 60:23.

While the half in New Orleans will serve as an intermediate step toward Farah’s full marathon debut in London 2014, he will concentrate his 2013 efforts on the IAAF World Track & Field Championships in Moscow this summer. But there will be another, more significant step toward the marathon this April when Mo will start this year’s Virgin London Marathon.  Yes, he will start, but he will not finish.  How do we know?  Because that is the deal that Mo’s people worked out with London, start this year, run till half-way then drop off. Then go the full distance in 2014.

From an athletic and PR standpoint this makes perfect sense.  From Mo’s vantage point getting the chance to take part in the event without actually being a competitor should serve him well, even if to a small degree, in 2014.  And financially it’s a certainly a win fall. According to the U.K’s Daily Mail, Mo Farah will receive an impressive (by running’s standards) £750,000 for his two London starts ($1,160,000US).  That fee, which was not confirmed by first-year race director Hugh Brasher (son of event founder Chris Brasher), would dwarf even the £500,000 it is believed Paula Radcliffe received in her prime a decade ago.

The Daily Mail story also underscores the point  made by Ben Rosario in a recent submission about the need to make such appearance fees public to hype the sport as being truly professional. BEN ROSARIO: WHAT ARE WE AFRAID OF?

“He’ll be rightfully well rewarded as an Olympic champion,” was all Hugh Brasher would reveal to the Daily Mail.

But while it all works well for Mo and the event to go just half-way in London 2013, how fair is it to the actual race contenders?  And what does it do for the focus of race coverage? (more…)

WHETHER THE WEATHER FOR BOSTON MARATHON MONDAY

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If in real estate it’s location, location, location, in marathon running it’s weather, weather weather.  People are eyeballing the weather stations like tornado chasers for this Monday’s 116th Boston Marathon. With this being an Olympic year, and decisions on Olympic qualifying still up for grabs in Kenya and Ethiopia, the two preeminent marathon nations of the world, much will be decided from April 15th in Rotterdam to April 22nd in London.  And as Sean Hartnett of Track & Field News just reminded me, “the weather at all the majors was pretty perfect last year.”

Here in Boston, though, there’s been a pattern of a good weather year being followed by a real stinker – think 1975 Bill Rodgers American record, 1976 Jack Fultz “Run for the Hoses” 100 degrees.  Not a good sign for Monday where, at present, the forecasters are calling for a high of 84F / 29C.  If it comes up snake-eyes like that, pity the Geoffrey Mutai and Gebre Gebremariams in the field who know they need to impress their Olympic selectors to punch their ticket on to London for the Games this summer.

Without a single trials race to select their teams, the two east African federations will await the results of Rotterdam, Boston, and London Marathons from April 15th to the 22nd before making the calls.  Right now there are six provisional men on the Kenyan squad, and four for the Ethiopians, all of who were the top four finishers in the Dubai Marathon in January.

“People back home in Ethiopia are calling them “The Sitting Ducks”, joked Global Athletics president Mark Wetmore who represents 2011 Boston third placer Gebre Gebremariam.  “At first they said five would be named, then four. That’s why GG is here. Essentially, the Ethiopian federation said, the Ethiopian Olympic Trials will be in Dubai.  But they didn’t tell the athletes till a week after Dubai.”

As we’ve laid out before on this blog Anticipating Spring Marathon Season, the stakes at the top spring marathons in Rotterdam, Boston, and London are sky high.  Last year’s Boston runner up and Chicago champion Moses Mosop goes first on Sunday in Rotterdam.  Word around town is that it will take a world record for a Rotterdamer to make the London bus.  Mosop will be pressed by two very scary Kenyan debutants who have done serious damage in the half-marathon, Sammy Kitwara and Peter Kirui.  Then on Monday Geoffrey Mutai defends his best-ever 2:03:02 from last year here in Boston. I asked him today if there was a difference in coming in as the favorite this year with all the pressure as opposed to last year when he was just another one of the top guys. (more…)