For the last 44 years, my heart rate begins to go up starting with the first day in April. By now, April 10, I also feel anxious and edgy. By the time I get to downtown Boston and see the banners fluttering and a big gold and blue FINISH painted on Boylston Street, I will be in full hyperventilation.
No, I’m not running. I’m doing my 28th consecutive telecast for WBZ-TV. You’d think I’d have gotten over being nervous about this telecast a long time ago; I mean, I have been there longer for the broadcast than any other Boston Marathon commentator, producer or even news director! Plus I’m working with the best group of friends and colleagues in the business. But I get nervous because it’s just like running—you do so much preparation and then you want very much to get it right on the day, at the precise moment.
TV is also like running because every race is different and you have to deal with the unexpected while on the move. And this year, more than ever before, those moves will be many and very fast. Both the men’s and women’s fields are loaded.
Three returning women’s champions will start and they are all top contenders: Lidiya Grigoryeva (winner in ‘07), Dire Tune (‘08), and Salina Kosgei (‘09). It’s an important historical moment to have that many in-shape women’s champions together; it speaks not only to the importance of this race but as their ages span from 24-36, it is testimony to women aspiring to and holding onto top professional status for a long time, despite the rigors of the sport. (Up to two days ago, there were actually four returning champions, but four-time Boston champion Catherine Ndereba, who probably knows more about the demands of long-term performance than anybody, had to withdraw with a piriformis injury.) Add to this list a slew of lesser-know speedsters–particularly Ethiopian women, who have been a tidal wave force in increasing the elite depth of women’s running. Today, Ethiopian women won both Rotterdam and Paris.
The men’s field boasts nine men faster than 2:07. I just looked at the list and thought, this can’t be true! Athletic performance never fails to stun us, but the outpouring of superb men’s marathon times makes talk of a sub 2-hour marathon suddenly less unthinkable. (Rotterdam today was won in 2:04, after all…) What is intriguing about the men’s race, however, is that Boston is not a fast course. It can be run fairly fast, but it first has to be run strategically, and that will make this a fascinating race. That should play into the hands of both D. Merga of Ethiopia and A.Goumri of Morocco, fast guys who know how to hold back and wait, but also of American Meb Keflezighi, who won the New York City Marathon last November using this tactic. Meb is only ranked 16th coming into Boston, but to me he’s the most dangerous. And you all just KNOW the USA is desperate to have an American winner of Boston; the last was Greg Meyer in 1983. By the way, I am not at all overlooking American Ryan Hall! Ryan is 3rd ranked in this field and likes to go fast; his challenge is if he does that, will he have to do all the early work himself?
Everyone wants to score an upset in Boston, because if you do it here you’ve done it on the world stage. All around me I see many young, extremely talented unknowns who are aggressive and determined to give it all they have to change their lives on these storied streets. Just getting to the start line here is a triumph—ask any of the other 25,000 runners who had to qualify just to get a bib number. Maybe the biggest story in Boston are those numbers—11,315 of whom are women by the way, a massive record—who have gone well beyond fitness to be at Boston. And for the many more who qualified this year but were turned away as the Boston streets simply cannot hold more runners. The capacity for human performance will continue to amaze us, and I am delighted to be reporting on it. Nervous, of course, just like a race. But what a privilege!
I’d love to see you in Boston; here’s where I will be, so stop by or tune in, they are all open to the public:
- At the Marathon Tours Booth # 2001 at the Expo at the Hynes Convention Center, I’ll be signing and selling my book Marathon Woman and the matching shirt. Hours: Friday, April 16 (3-7PM), Sat., Apr.17 (2-5:30PM) and Sun, Apr.18 (noon-2:30PM).
- Sunday morning, April 18, at the start line stage of the BAA 5K race on Copley Square, about 7:30 before the 8AM start.
- At the annual Runners World ‘Legends Panel’, I’ll be speaking along with legends Ron Hill, Greg Meyer, Dick Beardsley and Lisa Rainsberger. Location and Time: Sheraton Boston Hotel, Back Bay Ballroom C, 2nd floor, 3 PM.
- Monday, April 19: tune in to WBZ-TV (CBS affiliate) from 9:30-2PM to watch the greatest race on earth!
Good luck ! And my best to you, Kathrine