Saturday, April 26, 2008


Everyone has been writing about Boston this week. And why not? It was the running event of the week. So I thought I should get my two cents in before the week was over and Boston was old news.

Last Monday, April 21, was of course the Boston Marathon, one of the most celebrated running events in the U.S. And, for non-elite runners, one of the most difficult to get into! Under most circumstance, you have to qualify for Boston by running a good enough time in a prior marathon. (Got that? In order to even try to run the Boston Marathon you have to run another marathon first.)

And the qualifying times are nothing to sneeze at! For women, the qualifying time is 3:40 in a prior marathon. (For men, 3:10!) Then for both men and women, you get an extra five minute time for every five years of age starting at 35. However, at 45 you actually get ten minutes more than 40-44, resuming the five-minute increments thereafter. Plus, in each category you actually get an extra 59 seconds over the top. Meaning, a 45-year-old woman could qualify by running a 4:00:59 qualifying marathon. You can get in by running a qualifying marathon up to 18 months in advance, and you qualify at the age level you will be at the time of the marathon.

So if I wanted to qualify for the Boston Marathon at 45 (2011), I could start qualifying in the fall of 2009... but no. Not gonna go there.

Back to this year's Boston Marathon. I happened to still be home from work between 8:30 and 9:00, so I got to watch both the male and female winners come in. I tuned in when the women's race had about five or six miles left to go. Alevtina Biktimirova of the Russian Federation was just slightly in the lead, with Ethiopian Dire Tune right on her shoulder. (I only know their names because I've looked them up today. Up until now I thought of them as the Russian woman and the Ethiopian woman!) Their race to the finish was truly nail biting. Alevtina remained ahead by a hair for the longest time, but in the last couple of miles Dire pulled past her—finally winning by just two seconds, with an amazing time of 2:25:25. (Plodders like me cannot even fathom running so fast!)

What's more, 53 women finished under three hours! Number 54, one Kristin West, had a time of exactly three hours, no minutes or seconds. I wonder if she was thrilled to have such a memorable round number, or disappointed that it wasn't one second faster and under three hours? From my own experience with the two hour half marathon, I'm pretty sure that it's the second. But for goodness sakes, three hours is amazing! A Northwest girl, Kelly Jaske of Portland (age 31!) was one of the fastest Americans, with a time of 2:48:49.

And here's another impressive statistic for you. Of the sub-three hour women, sixteen were in their thirties (several late thirties), and eight were in their forties, including one, #13 Firaya Sultanova-Zhdanova of the Russian Federation, who is 46, and one, #27 Sue Pierson of Neenah, Wisconson, who is 44! If I went on to look at all the finishers, I'll bet that an impressive number of women would be in their forties, and older as well.

For the men, 29-year old Robert Cheruiyot of Kenya won handily at 2:07:46, beating his closest competitor by almost a minute and a half, and winning his fourth Boston Marathon (though not breaking his own record time). Since the men started about half an hour after the women, Robert finished his race shortly after the first and second placing women, and I believe before the third place woman. (His average pace, by the way, was about 4:52.)

These runners are so incredible and amazing. But I have to say I am just as interested in the non-elite runners, the "ordinary" people who ran from fast to slow, but finished one way or another. This is why I so loved the Spirit of the Marathon movie (I'm thinking of going to the special reshowing on Thursday), and NOVA's Marathon Challenge.

In other Boston news, of course both Armstrongs were running, Lance and Kristin. I'll admit I feel a little bit resentful on Kristin's behalf (not that she necessarily does) that Lance has jumped in when running is her thing. Doesn't he have enough success already? But it sounds like Kristin had a great experience running with her friends, finishing happily at 3:59. (She had no need to prove anything, she already ran the qualifying time!) Lance got a time of about 2:50. And, I must admit, he is pretty hot.

The Boston Marathon is held every year on Patriot's Day, which is a state holiday in Massachusetts. Patriot's Day commemorates April 19, 1775, which was the day the American Revolution began with the battles of Lexington and Concord. Patriot's Day has been a legal holiday in Massachusetts and Maine (formerly part of Massachusetts) since 1894, and celebrated on a Monday (third Monday in April) since 1969. The Boston Marathon has been run on Patriot's Day since the race began in 1897 (except for 1918, which was cancelled due to World War II). In 2010, Patriot's Day will fall on its original date, April 19.

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