The Boston Marathon last week was brilliant; it always is, no matter what the outcome. Has anyone ever left Beantown the day after the race and not been awestruck?
This year, thanks to a sunny cool day and a wind that became a tailwind at half way, there were hundreds of PRs. The first one set was by Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot, who set a course record of 2:05:52. A 2:05 at Boston!! Can you imagine? He obliterated the previous record of 2:07:14 and also set a world record for the fastest marathon run without pacesetters.
Young Robert –there are two reasons I call him this—took control of the race when the wind favored him, at about 17 miles, and poured on the pace. Nobody would—or could—stay with him, and he ran with a kind of fearless, but controlled abandon. Beautifully brilliant.
He is going to go down in history as “Cheruiyot the Younger” because indeed he is very young, only 21, and because the course record he broke was that of his 31-year old friend and advisor, Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot, who is a four-time winner of Boston. Like previous Boston Marathon champions John A. and John J. Kelley, the two Cheruiyots will be known as “The Elder” and “The Younger.” This is one way that Boston makes its history, and in 114 years of running, this race has plenty of opportunities.
History was made again in the women’s race, when Ethiopian Tayba Erkesso (winner of January’s Houston Marathon) broke boldly at about halfway from a large group of women leading the race at a sluggish pace and just went for it. Countrywomen Dire Tune (Boston champ in 2008) and Koren Yal tried to go with her, but the move was so fast and the pace so quickened that they fell away. Erkesso made her way alone but began slowing at mile 23. That’s when the figure of Tatyana Pushkareva emerged on the horizon. Pushkareva was not considered a podium contender, despite winning the San Antonio and Country Music marathons last year but in Boston she judged her pace perfectly and was having the best race of her life. She moved closer and closer to Erkesso— one minute back, 34 seconds back, and suddenly on the home stretch it was only eight seconds back. There was a final rush to the finish as Erkesso barely hung on, winning by three seconds. Last year, the race was won by one second, and the year before, by two seconds. Lately, the big finish line drama at Boston is in the women’s race!
As I came down off the finish line photo bridge, which is our WBZ-TV perch for doing the TV commentary of the race, I was engulfed in a slowly moving street-full of race finishers. They were silent, as they were weary; but they were smiling through those deeply lined faces. There were lots of PRs, and later that evening, when they met their friends for dinner, the streets of Boston were full of the sound of their laughter and high fives, and the clanking of their medals. This is a wonderful sight and while it always leaves me feeling a bit envious when I haven’t run myself, it gives me a feeling of hope about the human condition. 25,000 people have done something quite extraordinary. Beautifully brilliant.
Now I’m on a plane heading to Champaign, Illinois for the second running of the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon. There are 14,300 participants in only its second year! But it is no surprise that this race was a success from it’s inception since it is organized by three exceptionally energetic and highly-organized people– Mark Knutson, Executive Director, and race co-directors Jan Colorusso Seeley and Mike Lindemann. Race directors from all over the country are already there, volunteering their time and expertise…this group really understands the sport, and they also know how to make fun, festive and accomplishment happen. With the added impact of flat streets and a finish in the great Memorial Stadium at the University of Illinois, there is good reason the race sold out some time ago. (Although the race team generously did open registration again for 300 people who were turned off the course at Nashville last week because of tornado sightings).
Come by the Marathon & Beyond booth at the expo in the University of Illinois Activities and Recreation Center (ARC) on Friday and visit with 8-times Boston Marathon wheelchair champ, Jean Driscoll and me. We’re speaking at 2 PM and also speaking at all three pasta dinners, held in the same building. On race day, Jean is doing the half marathon, and I’m helping with the local radio broadcast. For more details, go to www.illinoismarathon.com. CU there!