My Very Own Excellent Boston Races/Marathon Weekend, by Jeff Benjamin

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Meb Keflezighi wins Boston, photo by PhotoRun.net
Jeff Benjamin, a frequent contributor to RunBlogRun and long time contributor to American Athletics and American Track & Field wrote this piece on his weekend in Boston:
My Very Own Excellent Boston Races/Marathon Weekend

By Jeff Benjamin

I am not a Marathon Runner, but I run. I'd like to think I can relate to all of those amazing marathon runners. I am also not as widely travelled as my publisher, Larry Eder either. But I'm going to try and relate to you my own chronicles of the great Boston weekend that just passed, as I ventured up to the mecca of world marathons from Staten Island. One knew that, in the wake of the tragedies of the previous year, Bosotn would most definitely rise up stronger again. But, you just had to be there to experience it. I was not disappointed.

Friday--Arrived just in time for the BAA Press Conference highlighting the 5K and Mile races. Present at the conference were Ben True, Molly Huddle, Nick Willis, and Morgan Uceny. In the audience was photographer extraordinaire Victah Sailer; Irish Mile great/Millrose Meet director and Agent Ray Flynn; our illustrious publisher Larry Eder; The RRW couple Dave and Jane Monti; Boston Running correspondent Tony Reavis; 1983 Boston Marathon Champ and last American victor Greg Meyer. Meyer took a lot of pride in Miler, Nick Willis. "We're both Michigan men", he said.
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David Monti, RRW and Molly Huddle, distance goddess, photo by Jeff Benjamin

Molly Huddle, one of the humblest world best holders-"I'm aware the 12KM road distance is not run very often"-Molly Huddle has been quite busy with her training. Having just got back from training in the high altitude of Flagstaff, she seemed quite excited about racing the BAA 5K tomorrow at sea level. "I am looking for a good time and I'm hoping to feel fast tomorrow," she said. But the race tomorrow is just another part of her long-term preparation. Focusing mostly on strength and endurance to this point, Huddle is looking towards the warm weather. When asked about her summer plans, she said that her focus is on running good times. "There are no championships this summer, so I can try and go for fast times." Her 10K best is around 31:27, and she hopes to "hover" around the 31 minute mark this summer, but the American Record holder at 5,000m (14:44.76) feels she still isn't finished with the 5K. "I'm hoping to compete in Rome this summer in the 5K, and if Monaco has a 5K, I'd love to race there."

As for moving up, Huddle said," I might try it. She also noted that in her 12K road world best, she had beaten top Boston marathon entrant Shaylene Flannagan. But, as she said, with no championships this upcoming season, "It's a fun year for me!"

As the conference was ending I asked some of the athletes what kind of advice they could give to young runners---
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Nick Willis, photo by PhotoRun.net

Nick Willis--" Running is only 1 part of your day. Having friend is great in that it keeps you in perspective. When you have highs and lows in your performances, most of your friends will keep you balanced. Whether you run a 6:59 mile or a 3:50 mile to most of my friends it's all the same."
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Dejen Gebrmeskel, Ben True,
photo by PhotoRun.net

Ben True--" Have fun. Make sure that you love the sport. You're not going to go anywhere in this sport, especially through the hard training, unless you are enjoying it."
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Morgan Uceny, photo by PhotoRun.net

Morgan Uceny--I played varsity basketball and ran during my Junior and Senior Year. I think young kids should play as many sports as they can. I believe it helps develop their hand-eye coordination, as well as working different groups of muscles. It's good to be well-rounded."

At the end of the conference Larry Rawson walked in. One of the sports' most knowledgeable announcers, Larry hoped to see an American win the Marathon. We'll see...

Aside from the parade of athletes, agents, and former winners mulling about the lobby of the Copely Square Plaza Hotel, a very hot commodity was becoming very sought after. Volunteers at the Old South Church had stitched and were giving out stitched scarves in the Boston Marathon colors of blue and yellow. The line for these scarves began picking up steam on Friday and would grow exponentially during the weekend. Sadly, they were all gone in a few hours.
Later that evening, in the hotel lobby, there sat last year's defending champion, Ethiopian Lelisa Desisa, all by himself. This gracious champion, gave back his winner's medal to the city of Boston and truly hopes to repeat his victory as a statement to last year's bombings.I also finally met my real life facebook pal, Merhawi Keflezighi, who recognized me from our internet communications. When I asked about his brother, Meb, he said, " he is upstairs, resting."

Saturday

Today I lined up for the BAA 5K. Conditions were beautiful. Alongside me was old friend and Greater Boston Track Club runner Dr. Stephen Segatore. Stephen was the Boston finish line doc who rushed in with other first responders in 2013 to aid as many people as they could. Always humble and a true gentlemen, I was thankful for the GBTC singlet he gave me.

As the gun went off, it was a truly fast race. My time of 18:53 would have gotten me in the top 3 in the 50 year old age group, but I'm one year away, and don't want to speed up Father Time! I then cooled down and learned of Ben True's close finish. But he wasn't downbeat in the least. "This is good at this time of the year for me", he said. Molly Huddle won her race and was very happy. "It shows my strength is where it should be at this time," she said. Moving Ben through the crowd was his agent Ray Flynn, still showing a little spin in his step reminiscent of his abilites as a 3:49.77 miler, but not fast enough to get him to take a quick pic with me!
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Greg Meyer, Nick Willis, Jeff Benjamin,
photo from Jeff Benjamin

Venturing back to the hotel, I once again bumped into Merhawi Keflezighi, who once again told me Meb was upstairs resting. I did run into Bill Rodgers, who ran into Ryan Hall, who ran into Kara Goucher, who ran into 1993 world Marathon Champion Mark Plaatjes, and then ran into 1988 Olympic Gold Medalist and 1990 Boston Champ Gelindo Bordin. That's some Road relay team!!

Bill was named the official Grand Marshall of the race, while Hall hopes to be the next great American Boston champ. Plaatjes and Bordin came to run, but "only 3:30", Bordin said. Kara was here for a twofold reason. "I'm supporting Shalane (Flannagan) and Boston", she said. Currently recovering from a back injury, Kara hopes to keep it low key this season since there are no championships. I told her,"In a way, it's a good year to be injured." She agreed, for the solace that it's worth.

One athlete in the world who has a championship this season is Kiwi Nick Willis. "I'm getting ready for the Commonwealth Games", he said at Friday's press conference.

The running gods sure allowed for an impressive start to Boston's races this weekend. Beginning early this morning with the impressive performances in the 5K (along with a record crowd of 10,000), the weather made for a cool, sunny, beautiful day. While ideal for race conditions, times in the BAA elite men's and women's mile did not seem a concern to the victors Willis and Morgan Uceny. Both athletes pretty much said they came to win, although both have different training goals. With the Commonwealth Games coming up this summer for him, Willis said

" I'm testing myself out and getting ready for that, but this was a good indication to where I am." His racing looked sharp, as he controlled the race and easily held off Irishman Paul Robinson and America's top miler Leo Manzano in a time of 4:11.3.

Indication it also seemed was what Uceny was looking for as she held off Heather Kampf in a time of 4:44.0. While the time was not that fast, Uceny, who has won this race in the even years that it has been held (2010,1012,and now 2014) felt it was a great confidence booster. "Hopefully I'll have a good season".

As far as the even itself the announcing by Tony Reavis and Larry Rawson added to the excitement for the crowd. With the mile a series of loops starting and finishing on Boyleston street, fans were treated to seeing the milers throughout the course, especially due to the large video screen which could be seen by the crowd at the finish line.
The BAA's Marc Davis , a notable runner in his own right (1996 Olympic steeplechase), did a great job of showcasing the milers by setting up introductions of each mile competitor prior to their races for the crowd. One of the things that was real cool was the opportunity to finally meet a great runner from the 1980s, Brit Dave Murphy. NY Marathon fans may remember Murphy as the runner who tried unsuccessfully to chase down Italy's Orlando Pizzolatto in the ultra-hot 1984 NY Race. "That's the year that Fred (Lebow) changed the date to early November from October," he said. "It took me more than a month to recover from that race."

Post event led to a visit to the Expo. Crowded and large was an understatement. It seemed that all the products were literally flying off the shelves. Meeting and greeting people at various booths were Ryan Hall, Deena Kastor, Katherine Switzer, Bill Rodgers, Jeff Galloway and Runners World's main man Bart Yasso. The biggest line seemed to for Ultra runner Dean Karnazes--why? Guess you'd have to ask the people!

Sunday

Very cool to run through Boston on Easter Sunday! Roads were empty and Boylston street, the site of the finish line, was blocked off beginning Saturday to all cars, allowing people to walk or run through the area unhindered. I also got in a historical trek as I went through Boston Common and then followed Boston's Freedom trail past Sam Adams and Paul Revere's grave, the Boston Massacre site, and then through the old north part of town across the Charleston bridge all the way up to Bunker (or Breeds') hill.
A great treat was arriving back at the Copley and saying hello to Joan Benoit Samuelson. What can you say?--56 Years young---First Women's Olympic Marathon Gold Medalist -1984--Winner of Boston Marathons--Former Marathon World Record Holder--and still a ferocious competitor! She said she was hoping to break 3 hours!

After my long run I went to lunch with my running guru, New Jersey's Tom Fleming. A two-time winner of the NY Marathon and later top National coach (Anne Marie Letko, Joe LeMay, to name a few) Tom ran his best marathons here in Boston, clocking a best of 2:12:05. "This was the place to do it..the best in the world always came here." Tom had been so close to victory, having finished 2nd here twice and in top five numerous times. Amazingly, the one year he thought he was in his top shape, 1975, he didn't count on his friend Bill Rodgers' breakthrough American performance that day. "I thought he'd come back," he told Joe Martino and myself. But Tom also talked about his 1983 performance. "I weighed 175 pounds and still ran around 2:16!" Probably a Clydesdale world record, right?

Arriving at the Copley later in the afternoon, I ran into George Hirsch. Some of you may remember George as the publisher of a magazine known in the 70s and 80s as The Runner . He then later went on to be the publisher of Runners World and is currently the Chairman of the New York Road Runners. After discussing some local issues and reminiscing about his magazines, I mentioned that I had not seen Frank Shorter around. George then remarked to my surprise that Frank was meeting him there in a few minutes for dinner. Having met the 1972 Olympic Gold Medalist in the Marathon many times before, it was great to see Frank again, who still looks like he could still do at least a few quarters in 70 seconds, at least to me!!

That evening as many of the marathoners gathered near city hall for the pasta party, the BAA hosted a sponsors dinner at the Copley. Among the great runners attending were Greg Meyer, Joan Benoit Samuelson, and Bill Rodgers. But the largest applause of the evening was for the survivors of the bombing.
Race Director Dave McGillivray made a quick appearance as well. Also present was New England Patriot Super Bowl Champion and former Staten Islander Joe Andruzzi, who lifted Bill Rodgers in the air to the adoring press photographers. Andruzzi, currently an assistant strength coach with the Patriots, also was one of those who ran into action last year to help victims. He sponsors a foundation which encourages many to participate in races and other events to raise funds in the fight against cancer.

Greg Meyer had let it be known that he hoped an American would win it. He said he was tired of being known as the last American man to win Boston.

One BAA official who attended and saw many happy faces through Boston and at the dinner was still concerned. "You know, our work does not end tomorrow with who wins. It's after that we have to be on top of our game."

Marathon Monday

After staying at my old track club and college teammate Bob Baroz' Wellesley home, I ventured with his son James to the 20K mark as well as the 13.1 mile halfway mark. Among the girls from Wellesley ready to scream for the next few hours at the runners was my niece Allison, a sophomore. The crowds were indeed large and loud as many of the wheelchair athletes came along first, followed by the elite women, with Flannagan leading in her valiant attempt to win (she did not win, but she can take comfort in her new PR by almost 4 minutes!). When the elite men passed by I finally saw Meb!

Totally controlling the pace, I wondered if the 38 (almost 39!) year-old could hold on, and indeed he did! The other elite runners seemed to be holding back, figuring he'd come back.
But, like Frank Shorter in 1972 in Munich, and Bill Rodgers in the 1975 Boston race, he did'nt come back, and finally exorcised the happy specter of Greg Meyer as he became the first American since Greg in 1983 to win Boston.

Later on I saw Joan Benoit Samuelson pass by me looking every bit ferocious as she looked 30 years ago! She was also rewarded with a sub-3 hour finishing time, her goal! After her came Plaatjes, and then former road racing star Keith Brantley, showing once again why many felt they had to be here this time around.

So Boston is back stronger than ever! But, the next time I bump into Merhawi, I hope to see Meb and congratulate him. Unless he's resting. Now I know that means more great things could be coming his, and our way!!

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