BOSTON—This is my favorite week of the year—Boston Marathon Week. I love this town and can’t imagine being anywhere else this time of year. I’ve been coming here for the marathon nearly every year since 1978 and it never ever gets old.
As is tradition, my friend Amby Burfoot and I met this morning for a run along the bike path on the Charles River. Amby won this race in 1968 and he’s still a rock star here even though his victory was million years ago. He and I have run hundreds of times together, running with him in Boston on marathon weekend always feel extra special. On this cool morning, I am struck with the same feeling I get every April here: This is our Masters.
Of course, the major difference is you and I are running (or could be; I’m not this year), rather than just watching on TV. We are the players. This is our Championships. We don’t have a green jacket, but our Boston champions have a laurel wreath.
Every runner who will gather in Hopkinton this Monday will feel special, honored and blessed to be here. For some, just qualifying is the culmination of years of training. Nobody comes to Boston just to jog or clown around. This Boston course is hallowed ground and every qualifier is here to run his/her best marathon.
Boston is the oldest marathon in the world (this year will be the 116th) and it’s also the most unique. Certainly, the qualifying times are part of its mystique, but the time standards are not what make this the greatest marathon in the world.
What does make it the greatest marathon in the world is the race’s unmatched tradition, the adoring crowds and the fact that the exact same point-to-point course (or nearly so) has been used since 1897.
The Boston course certainly holds up to the test of time. It can be a lightning fast course (like last year) or depending on the weather and which way the wind blows, exceptionally hard. I’m betting this year it will be a tough day with warm weather in the forecast. Still, it’s a classic course with as many ups as downs. This is what makes Boston…Boston.
Heartbreak Hill (s) is the most famous series of hills in running, but I’ve always thought the two keys to running Boston well are the first five miles and the final five. The first five consists of several steep downhills from Hopkinton to Framingham. Go out too quickly and you’ll be cooked by the time you get to halfway at Wellesley. The final five—coming off Heartbreak at mile 20 ½ —are almost entirely downhill or flat, but if you have run the downhills too hard, your quads will be rubber and the last stretch will be an impossibly difficult struggle past the Citgo sign at Fenway Park and in front of the huge, boisterous downtown crowds.
Without a shadow of a doubt, the final downhill parade along Boylston to the finish in front of the many thousands of wild Boston fans is the best stretch of road in marathoning. That is without dispute. Every runner is welcomed back to the finish as a Boston Marathoner. Nothing is better.
I just wish every marathoner had at least one chance to experience it.
O A bunch of Austin runners journeyed last weekend to Palo Alto, California for the Stanford Invitational in search of Olympic Trials and NCAA qualifying times. Lennie Waite, the former Rice runner from Austin who is now an assistant coach at Rice, won her heat of the steeplechase in 9:48.35 which easily betters the “A” standard to get her into the Trials. Betzy Jimenez, the former UT star who is headed to medical school in the fall, PR’ed in the 5000 in 16:05. She’ll head back to Stanford in a couple of weeks for the Payton Jordan Invitational and take another shoe at the “B” standard of 15:50. Former Cedar Park stud Parker Stinson of Oregon PR’ed in the 10,000 to nail the “B” qualifier right on the nose of 29:00. Three UT men ran in the 5000 and Ryan Dohner’s 13:59 was the best. Freshman Craig Lutz was right in back in 14:00.95 and Brock Simmons PR’ed in 14:02. In the 10,000, three Longhorns stuck together with Will Nation and Rory Tunningley of Lockhart finishing in 29:33 and Pinales in 29:40.
O Congrats to Desiree Ficker, the professional trigoddess and marathoner, on her engagement to Matt Berry. He is a former college football player for Davidson who is now a regional scout for the Seattle Seahawks.
O Joseph McCellon, who finished second in the Austin Distance Challenge this year, is pulling up stakes and moving to Scottsdale, Arizona. It’s a temporary move for the former Texas Tech runner who expects to be back here in 1½ years. Best of luck. He’ll be running in Boston on Monday.
O Bill Green Jr., who set the national high school 400-meter record of 45.51 and made the US Olympic 400-meter team as a freshman at USC, has died at the age of 50 from complications from cancer. Green, who grew up in Palo Alto, California, was the son of Bill Green, who was the long-time attorney for Runner’s World while it was in the Bay Area. Green Jr. was the greatest high-school sprinter I ever saw and in his senior year at Cubberly HS, ran 10.59 (100), 20.91 (200) and his 45.51 which still ranks as the second fastest 400 ever run by a high schooler.
O There’s a changing of the guard at the Dallas White Rock Marathon. Well sort of. Long-time race director Marcus Grunewald has been promoted to executive director of the event. Grunewald, who has been with the race in one capacity or another since 1997, will still be involved with the marathon, but race operations will be handled by Event Southwest. That’s a timing and race management company owned by Michael Luchsinger and Lear Johnson who will assume all race operations and report to Grunewald.
O There are a bazallion Austinites running the Boston Marathon on Monday and even a few who double down in the B.A.A. 5-K and/or Invitational Mile on Sunday. The 5-K gets going at 8 a.m. and plenty of Austin runners who are doing the marathon, jog it as a nice warmup. The Invitational Mile begins at 10 a.m. and one of Austin’s finest—Kyle Miller who was fourth last year—is running.
O USATF is still searching for a CEO and one would assume, it hopes to have a new head in time for the Olympic Trials in June but you never know about this most backward of all sports organizations. There have been plenty of rumors about some of the candidates, but the latest one to surface is a man by the name of Tracy Sundlun. I’ve known Tracy for at least 30 years as he has been a coach, promoter, race announcer, track meet organizer-official and just about everything else in the sport. For the past 10 years, Tracy has been a senior VP of the Competitor Group (and before that Elite Racing) who is a familiar site at the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio event as well as many others. Sundlun has already listed 10 major proposals that he will enact if elected, including creating a national track league and reviving the USA vs Russia dual meets.
O What I’m listening to this morning: “Pump,” by Aerosmith (the Bad Boys from Boston).
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