10 things we learned at the Boston Marathon
1) Boston is loud, very loud
What stood out at this year’s race, perhaps more than anything else, was the noise. Speak to anyone who ran – whether they finished in two hours or five hours – and they all had the same story of how much of a thrill it was to run through a 26.2-mile tunnel of thunderous, rapturous sound. It’s doubly impressive when you consider the conditions for the marathon – cold, wet and windy weather could easily have tempted the locals to stay indoors, but after the winter they just experienced, that was never going to be on the agenda for the people of Boston.
The best moment of the television broadcast was unquestionably when the commentators went silent, allowing the microphones at the halfway mark by Wellesley College to transmit to viewers, for a few short moments, what it would feel like to be out there on the road. Despite the rain, the renowned Wellesley College girls came out in droves to create an incredible ‘scream tunnel’ and offer kisses to give runners a much-needed boost. One competitor even recounted his delight to RunBlogRun when he saw a girl holding a sign which read ‘I do tongue.’ It wasn’t just them, though, but the whole of Boston – the many, many thousands of locals who love this race so dearly – who made it what it was: loud.
2) Molly Huddle and Ben True are set for big summers
Long before the big show got underway, we were treated to the perfect dress rehearsal with Saturday morning’s BAA 5k, which saw Molly Huddle and Ben True deliver outstanding wins for the home contingent, both breaking the respective American 5K road records. Huddle’s winning time of 14:50 took four seconds off Deena Kastor’s former record, and was just four seconds off Meseret Defar’s world best. True outkicked a number of East Africans to win in 13:22, two seconds quicker than Marc Davis’s previous record. Both athletes showed they’ve come through the winter months stronger than ever, and if they can convert that form to the track later this summer, expect strong showings from them at the World Championships in Beijing.
3) Lelisa Desisa is consistently brilliant
On Friday, when we spoke to Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia and asked him about his hopes for the race, he smiled and said, with total assurance, “I will win.” Three days later, he made good on that promise, racing away over the closing miles to take his second Boston title in 2:09:17. Desisa has an enviable rÃ©sumÃ© at major marathons; his drop-out at last year’s race aside – when he had to step off the course due to an ankle injury – he has finished first or second in all of his major marathons in the last three years. Still only 25, he looks set to have a similar career to his countryman Tsegaye Kebede, who has been remarkably consistent in his ability to make the podium on the marathon’s biggest stage for the past seven years. In other words, Desisa has been, and looks like he’ll continue to be, consistently brilliant.
4) You can’t win a Marathon Major at less than 100 per cent
They tried, alright, but for Shalane Flanagan, Patrick Makau and Abel Kirui-who had all emerged from Monday’s race with different reasons for their sub-par performances-the lesson was clear: if you’re not at your absolute best, you won’t win Boston. Flanagan admitted afterwards that missed time in training in January had cost her crucial fitness, which showed as she finished ninth in 2:27:47. Two-time world champion Abel Kirui came into the race with an illness and dropped out, when already well detached from the leaders, with less than four miles to run. Former world record holder Patrick Makau, meanwhile, laboured his way through the first 5K in 15:25 before stepping off the course, reportedly carrying an injury. At this level, there’s just no hiding place when you’re not at your best.
5) Meb Keflezighi knows how to sell himself
Last year’s champion Meb Keflezighi was unsurprisingly the media darling on the countdown to this year’s race and at one point of the weekend, it seemed there was no appearance he wasn’t making in Boston, no interview he wasn’t giving, but who could possibly blame him for cashing in on his many successes? Keflezighi is as astute a promoter as he is a race tactician, and regularly name-dropped the name of his recently-published book into interviews he conducted, of which there must have been dozens, over the weekend. The 39-year-old, who finished eighth on Monday after being forced to stop five times in the closing miles due to a hydration problem, spotted a great opportunity to nonetheless make his finish a memorable one when he grabbed the hand of Hilary Dionne and crossed the line arm-in-arm on Boylston Street, allowing her to enjoy an unforgettable moment and her own 15 minutes of fame. It was the move of a man who has an inherent feel for what makes a good marathon story, and sure enough the media, and the public, duly lapped it up.
6) Desiree Linden is getting better and better
When RunBlogRun caught up with Kevin Hanson after the race – the man who, along with his brother Keith, coaches Linden – his pride in her fourth-place performance was visible. “She’s easy to be proud of,” he said. Hanson explained how Linden’s career is essentially broken into two segments, divided by her year-long absence through injury in 2012, and how in both those sections of her career, she has improved with every marathon. That was the case again on Sunday, and Linden will now focus on shorter races for the remainder of 2015 and save her next marathon for the Olympic trials in LA in February 2016. If the trend continues, and it should, expect Linden to show up in even better form.
7) Ritzenhein got it right
Plagued by injury, Dathan Ritzenhein only managed to race once in 2014, a number he surpassed within the first 10 days of 2015 – beginning his year with a pair of strong cross country performances in Italy and Scotland. Since then, in every interview he has given, he stressed the need to stay on the cautious side when it came to his marathon return in Boston. After missing a few days with injury after the New York City Half Marathon in mid-March, Ritzenhein allowed himself take a conservative approach to training and readily admitted beforehand that he had undercooked it to ensure he made it to the start line in one piece. The result was that Ritzenhein’s talent eventually did the talking, and he managed a great return to the marathon, coming home as the top American finisher in seventh in 2:11:20. If he can execute a similar strategy next winter and make it to the start line healthy for the Olympic Trials marathon, he should comfortably make his fourth Olympic team.
8) The shadow of Rita Jeptoo hasn’t gone away
The name of last year’s female champion, who eventually tested positive for EPO, was never far from anyone’s lips over the weekend. Though Jeptoo herself is currently banned for two years, pending appeal, and no athletes from Federico Rosa’s agency – which represented her – were invited to this year’s Boston Marathon, her shadow still managed to hang low over the women’s race. Television commentators engaged in lengthy off-air discussions about how to bring up her doping case on the live broadcast, and Jeptoo’s former female rivals were asked, both before and after their race, what they thought about her cheating and her absence. Buzunesh Deba summarised what many were thinking in the post-race press conference when Jeptoo’s name came up once again: “I’m happy she’s not here.”
9) It may be time for Zersenay Tadese to abandon the marathon
For Zersenay Tadese, it could be time to think of a new plan. The Eritrean was previously a world cross country champion and former half marathon world record holder, so it was easy to think that Boston, with its many undulations, would be perfect for him to finally make the breakthrough he’s been threatening to do over 26.2 miles. It wasn’t, and Tadese’s race ended like so many of his other marathon attempts, in disappointment – he ran with the leaders past halfway, but dropped out at 25K. Five times now he has raced the marathon, and each time it has ended with Tadese either being an also-ran or a non-finisher. Despite switching coaches and logging up to 300km per week in training in preparation for Boston, his engine still seems destined to only succeed at the shorter distances. Tadese would still be a formidable force at 10,000m, cross country and over the half marathon, and after Monday, it may finally be time to consider switching his focus back to those disciplines – a place in which he can again thrive.
10) Seyaum is super, Gebremeskel looks great
While Americans reigned supreme at the BAA 5K on Saturday morning, it was a pair of Ethiopians who established their dominance the road miles, run on a tight, three-lap course in the city center. In the women’s race, Dawit Seyaum announced herself as a formidable candidate on the world stage at senior level – having been a world junior champion last year over 1500m. Seyaum blitzed some top Americans like Morgan Uceny and Heather Kampf to win in 4:35.4, and says she wants to run 3:57 for 1500 this summer.
Meanwhile, the way in which Dejen Gebremeskel dispatched the men’s field to win in 4:04.1 suggested he may pose a dangerous threat to Mo Farah’s dominance on the track. Gebremeskel, an Olympics 5,000m silver medallist, finished almost three seconds ahead of 3:52 miler Chris O’Hare after a front-running performance, and afterwards said he had chosen to run the road mile, instead of his speciality 5K, to test his speed ahead of the track season getting into full swing. “I wanted to see whether my speed was good or not. I was happy.”
Indeed, Gebremeskel had very good reason to be happy, and the challenge now will be to see whether he can deal O’Hare’s British teammate Mo Farah a similar fate when they inevitably clash on the track over 5,000m later this year.
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