Olympic Trials updates-Behind the Scenes...

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It is just before midnight on Sunday evening, April 20, 2008. The day was full of excitement, with 124 finishers out of 153 starters in the U.S. Olympic Trials for the marathon. Kudos to the BAA for investing in our sport. Putting on an Olympic Trials and the people behind the scenes, from manning the barriers, to the support staff for the timing company, to the well run media center, all deserve our thanks.

Special thanks to Jack Fleming and his team for their hard work and Dave McGillavray and his team for their attention to detail on the course. We think that Guy Morse should be congratulated for his focus in the face of his health issues over the past year--and it was great seeing him maneuver the course and the various events over the weekend.

We also wanted to make you, our readers aware of a few other things about the race, that quite frankly, may get lost in the piles of papers and files discarded in the coverage of this most amazing weekend......

Security on the course was pretty tight. I did manage to walk down Boylston Street until I hit about 20 meters from the start. I watched the start, but as I moved up the street, I was met by Security and since I did not have the special blue dot on the front of my Media pass, I was asked, quite nicely I might add, to leave the course and get behind the barriers.

Executive Director Guy Morse was stopped near the start as he did not have the correct sticker. This was quickly corrected, but Guy was pleased that security was observant and on top of their game.

Race Director Dave McGillavray and his team was on top of their game. They got the race off on time and the chip timing worked, providing split and accurate information on the 153 starters.

Brooks Running provided clubs like the Granite State Flyers with balloons, whistles and face paint, and the club, near the end of Boylston, kept the other fans entertained and the runners sure heard alot of noise.

adidas outdoor signage around the course and the city continues to inspire. It is some of their best marketing work-it should be seen outside of the city of Boston.

Nike had a breakfast with Joan Benoit Samuelson and Lance Armstrong on Saturday. This was for runners who were part of a Live Strong, the Lance Armstrong project and were running on Monday.

Joan was pretty nervous this weekend. But she had reason-her 90th place, with her 2:49:08 was an excellent testament to her love of the sport. She said that this was her last truly serious marathon.

Here is how she described her marathon career:

"Like the traditional Boston course, my marathon career has been a roller coaster. Never say never, not sure when I will run another marathon. I trained very hard this winter, very tough, very challenging. I had a plan and a goal, so I dealt with the weather conditions. So I have friends and family members who may run a marathon, so I might join them. I felt strong today, feel surprisingly good today. My career? It has been a great run. I came on in the running scene in Boston with the Boston Marathon and what is now the Tufts 10k. To be able to go out there today with the best that the sport has to offer. Deena thanks for your kind words. I told the press that Deena would be the next American record holder, I am handing the torch to her now, and she certainly will. "

A nice innovation for the Awards Luncheon was the complete list of finishers, with a picture of Blake, Deena and Magdelena on the front cover! Nicely done LOC!

Also, the press conference, with Deena Kastor, Magdelena Lewy Boulet, Blake Russell, and Joan Benoit Samuelson may have been one of the best press conferences that I have witnessed. All the athletes are quite articulate, and the emotions were running deep. Three great stories of redemption, in the sports arena and the race unfolded as a great and exciting broadcast. Kudos to the local NBC affiliate for their fine coverage of this event!

A keen observer of our sport said to me, " This Trials was amazing. If I was a women marathoner, I would want Boston to always host the Trials." No praise could be given to the BAA more honest than that!

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The unsung heroine of the Olympic Trials marathon: Marja Bakker and "her marathoners"

There is a person who should be recognized for her part in the success of this weekend, and that is the late Marja Bakker. Marja died less than two years ago, and today, April 20, 2008, is her birthday.

Marja was a long time member of the BAA, a sub three hour marathoner and she loved her athletes. Marja was instrumental in helping develop the course used today, and it was her insistence that the mile markers be done in a certain way on the Trials course, in order to make them easier to read for the marathoners. Her attention to detail, her stubbornness in the face of topics that she felt hurt the marathon or hurt the athletes was read many times in the wrong way. Anyone who spent some time with her, who really tried to get to know her, understood that Ms. Bakker was a rare person indeed-she stood by her beliefs and her words.

As one who considered himself a friend of Marja, I find it sad that the BAA Board of Directors still has not provided her friends and supporters with a chance to show their respect for a women who gave her every waking moment to protecting "her marathoners."

Marja spent much of her life working on bettering the experience of every marathoner who ever toed the line at the BAA Boston marathon and she was definitely a part of the success today in this most amazing Women's Olympic Trials. That she was not recognized, in my mind, is unacceptable behavior and unusual behavior for an organization so esteemed as the BAA. Perhaps, it was an oversight. If so, the BAA has time to respond and we will be happy to give them the space to consider the contribution of Ms. Bakker.

Marja is the reason we have a Race Director's Reception. She championed a relationship between the Running Network, New England Runner and the BAA. She was a women of singular character, and as one of her friends, I dearly miss her. I met her in 1987 at the Boston Marathon. My son, Adam was less than seven months old and he would allow Marja to hold him. Marja always asked about Adam each and every year after that. She was just like that. Marja was instrumental in the develop a relationship between the BAA and the Running Network, and through her I met Jack Fleming and Guy Morse.

Marja would have been stunned with the turnout this year-her project has now become a fixture on the weekend event schedule for the running industry. This year, over 250 race directors, running store owners and running industry professionals met at the Jury's hotel to catch up and celebrate the sport of running.

It was nice that Thomas Grilk, at the Champion's Breakfast, recognized Frank Porter for being instrumental in the Women's Olympic Trials. I felt that it was a very sad omission that no one in the Board of Governors thought it was necessary to mention a women who worked until her last months on seeing this race become a reality. Not that she needed the recognition or the recognition of anyone else--that is not what drove Marja Bakker. She loved "her marathoners."

I would like to suggest a Marja Bakker Service Award to recognize the unsung heroes of the various events that the BAA does. This would be a proper way to recognize the memory of someone who we owe so very much. I would be very happy to help with this program.

As a great friend of Marja told me tonight, " Marja would have loved the Olympic Trials today, it was a great event!" That is true.

Happy Birthday Marja, 153 women marathoners celebrated your birthday in grand style.

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