All runners, it appeared, chucked out their time goals and simply competed, which made for a very tactical race. With steady 20-mph headwinds with 50-mph gusts and temperatures that started at 50 degrees and dropped like a rock to the bottom of a swimming pool, survival was the rule of the day. It definitely was no day at the beach.
Perhaps that’s why American Deena Kastor struggled in her Boston debut to finish nearly six-minutes off the pace for fifth place. A pre-race favorite, Kastor said her training for the race was “flawless” and based on how she dominated at the national cross-country championships, it was evident. But Kastor threw in a second straight “clunker” in a major marathon after running a 2:19 for the American record and the victory in the London Marathon last April, and victory in Chicago in October of 2005 and a bronze medal in the Olympics in Athens in 2004.
It’s a little baffling because Kastor clearly is tough. The Athens Olympic Marathon was run over a course very similar to the one she raced over today in Boston under conditions that were not conducive to running. In that race Kastor ran smart and solid to bring home the bronze.
Yet after running and winning on two courses designed for speedy, and world-record times, Kastor struggled on two “classic” styled courses by finishing sixth in 2:27:54 and today’s fifth-place finish in Boston in 2:35:09, which under ideal weather conditions might have resulted in a similar time to the one from NYC.
So is the tactical-style of racing or the undulating terrain on courses like New York and Boston that tripped up Kastor? Who knows. All we know is that running is a fickle mistress – some days you have it and some days you don’t. That’s really deep, I know, but what else is there to say? There is no such thing as getting “hot” in running, meaning it’s conceivable that I could hit a home run off Roger Clemens or get “hot” and finish a round under par in golf. But there is no way I will ever be able to run a 2:10 marathon no matter how hard I train or if I have a good day.
Unlike other sports there is no such thing as luck in running.
note: The New York Times reported that Kastor struggled with stomach cramps during the race. Her plan, before the weather report turned from bad to worse, was to go out hard from the start. Later she changed plans to race tactically before making a move at Heartbreak Hill. Instead, when it came to make a move Kastor went for one of the many port-o-pots lining the course. Except for the cramps, Kastor says nothing else bothered her during the race.
“I knew coming in here that the competition would be great and I could conquer it,” she said. “That wasn’t the case today. We marathoners can get pretty hard on ourselves, but I felt I had the drive to push forward and the will to win the race. So I’m definitely disappointed knowing I was good enough to come here and win this race. I’m disappointed that didn’t happen.
“Usually, you can learn a lesson from a marathon. I’m not taking anything away from this one. There was no learning experience. A fifth-place finish is a fifth-place finish.”
So yes, it had to be something with Kastor. She's far too good of a runner to simply have a bad day. Just ignore the second-guessing.
Though she didn’t win, Prokopcuka may have been the best runner in the race.
Robert Cheruiyot didn’t have the problem of being the best runner in the race and falling short. Like Prokopcuka, Cheruiyot set the pace as if to tell the other racers that, “It begins and ends here, fellas. Hang on if you can… ” In the end, Cheruiyot finished in 2:14:12 – way off the 2:07:14 he ran to set the course record last year, for his third victory in Boston.
As a side note, while watching the race I was struck by Cheruiyot’s running style and how he gobbled up ground with a powerful stride that was contrarily efficient and smooth. Then it hit me… he ran like Moses Tanui. You remember Moses Tanui, the two-time Boston champ from the Nandi District in Kenya who was the first human to run a half marathon under an hour? Of course.
Tanui was so tough that he won the silver 1995 World Championships in the 10,000 meters even after one of his shoes fell off.
Tanui ran two of the bravest races I had ever seen, coming from more than a minute off the pace at Heartbreak Hill to chase down two runners in the final 200 meters to win the 1998 Boston followed by the great 1999 Chicago Marathon where Tanui and American record holder Khalid Khannouchi dueled at world-record pace from the gun.
In that one, Tanui surged from the pack at the 17th mile to build a 60-second lead with five miles to go. That’s when Khannouchi decided to go after Tanui to catch him with about 5k left. The two took turns trying to break one another until Tanui reached for his water bottle at the 25-mile mark. That’s where Khannouchi really threw down the hammer using Tanui’s slight hesitation as the thin window of opportunity.
On TV, Khannouchi and Tanui disappeared into a tunnel together where cameras couldn’t send out a signal or the helicopter offering a bird’s eye view couldn’t hover. But when they came out Khannouchi was alone and blazing to set a world record in 2:05:42. Tanui finished in 2:06:16, just off the record Khannouchi had broken.
Anyway, it dawned on me that Cheruiyot’s gait was eerily similar to Tanui’s until the announcers revealed that he is coached by Dr. Gabriele Rosa – Tanui’s old coach. Then it all came together… it all made sense.
Nevertheless, Cheruiyot won his third Boston and he’s just 28. Wait until he gets to his prime.
And wait until you read this story...