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) Continue reading

2016 TCS NEW YORK CITY MARATHON- PHOTO ESSAY

New York, N.Y. – He may or may not actually be the 20 years of age that his passport declares (birth dates are often less precise in some parts of the world). But that didn’t stop Eritrea’s Ghirmay Ghebreslassie from frolicking like a young colt through the five concrete boroughs in the 46th running of the TCS New York City Marathon.

Ghebrslassie entering Central Park on his way to victory

Ghebreslassie galloping in Central Park on his way to  a 2:07:51 victory.

Showing no signs that he was competing in his third big time marathon in seven months time, the long-named strider put an exclamation point on his 2016 campaign, adding the New York City title to fourth place finishes in the London and Rio Olympic Marathons.

Under azure blue skies and clement mid-50s Fahrenheit temps, Ghebreslassie took charge as the lead pack climbed the Pulaski Bridge at halfway in Queens  (1:04:25). His decisive move splintered the 12-man pack and led eventual runner up Lucas Rotich of Kenya and eventual DNF Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia on a clean breakaway. From that point forward the man from Asmara, Eritrea just kept turning the screw tighter and tighter until Desisa then Rotich gave way up the Willis Avenue Bridge at 20 miles.

Thin as a miser’s smile, the 2015 World Marathon champion in Beijing was only 34-seconds off the course record pace at 20 miles. But once free from Rotich, the recently married Gheb cantered home in 31:01 over the final 10K while Mutai had pressed his margin with a 28:36 in 2011 to set the record at 2:05:06.

In the end Ghirmay G. added a shiny Big Apple to his growing display case with a convincing 2:07:51 win, third  fastest winning time in New York history and just five seconds off his PR run this spring finishing fourth in London. Continue reading

2016 TCS NEW YORK CITY MARATHON – MEN’S PREVIEW

New York, N. Y. – The Marathon is a what – have – you – done – for – me – lately kind of sport. And in that sense tomorrow’s men’s competition in the 46th TCS New York City Marathon reminds me of the classic Game 7 of the Chicago Cubs – Cleveland Indians World Series. Continue reading

STEP BY STEP

     In the classic Three Stooges episode, Slowly I Turned, first Mo – then Larry – smashes, hits, punches, and tears poor Curly’s clothing before knocking him to the ground, all for reminding him of his confrontation with Larry (then vice versa) in Niagra Falls over a woman.   After Curly innocently utters the offending city’s name, triggering the attacks, Mo and Larry’s refrain goes, “Niagra Falls! Slowly I turned, and step by step, inch by Inch…”  (Of course, all men can recite Stooges episodes by heart. Women think they are dumb. Men agree, but then remind them, “stupidity is the point. It’s purposeful stupidity, a whole different animal than the unintentional kind most often voiced by candidates running for President).

Well, Galen Rupp might not wear his hair in a bowler like Mo or a frizzed out ‘fro like Larry, but step by step, inch by inch the 25 year-old from Portland, Oregon is proving the American distance running equivalent the Stooges’ classic set piece.

Yes, I questioned the London 2012 Olympic medal chances of Mr. Rupp upon his seventh place finish in Daegu at the World Championships 5000 meters (RUPP‘S DILEMMA), but today at the final Samsung Diamond League meeting of the year in Brussels Rupp took another stride in his step-by-step, inch-by-inch approach to the London Olympic podium in the 10,000 meters. Continue reading

BRIAN OLINGER STEPS OUT IN FALMOUTH

     No surprises on the men’s podium at today’s 39th New Balance Falmouth Road Race, as the three Kenyan favorites prevailed for the second week in a row on the New England road circuit.  The only change from last weekend’s TD Bank Beach to Beacon 10K in Cape Elizabeth, Maine was that 21 year-old Lucas Rotich turned the tables on 25 year-old countryman Micah Kogo to take the win.  His 31:37 winning time tied third best ever on the classic seaside course, and was four seconds up on the B2B champ.   2009 Falmouth champion and B2B third-placer, Ed Muge, followed in 32:02 to cop his second straight show trophy.

Not to say there wasn’t any surprise. There was a big one flying down into Falmouth Heights in fourth place as top American finisher in the person of Columbus, Ohio’s Brian Olinger.

Steeplechaser Brian Olinger

Running head up against the Kenyan stars throughout the seven-mile race, 25 year-old Olinger came across in 32:16 to become the third fastest American ever on the Falmouth course.  Only Alberto Salazar’s two wins (1981- 31:55, 1982 – 31:51), and Craig Virgin’s runner up to Alberto in `82 (32:12) have been faster by U.S. runners. (CORRECTION:  Meb Keflizighi ran 32:09 in 2008 (2nd), 32:12 in 2009 (5th), and 32:13 in 2007 (2nd).

Brian’s effort was well remunerated.  He pocketed $11,500, including the separate $10,000 payday that went to the top American finisher.  Arizona’s Abdi Abdirahman finished in fifth in 32:43. Continue reading