Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Once & Future Kings

Ryan Hall with Bill Rodgers posing just before the finish line for the Boston Marathon.

With the Boston Marathon coming up tomorrow, you strict triathletes will have to indulge me for today. Coming from a running background, nothing gets me more excited than the running of the Boston Marathon. This proud tradition dates back to 1897 after the event was essentially invented the year before at the first modern Olympics in Athens in 1896.

American had a proud tradition in this race going back to seven time winner Clarance DeMar in the '20s and early '30s, John A. Kelly and Tarzan Brown in the 30's and 40's, John J. Kelly in 1957, Runner's World writer Amby" Burfoot in 1968, Alberto Salazar in 1982, and Greg Meyer in 1983. On the women's side, we had the great Joan Benoit Samuelson win the women's race twice in the late 70s and early 80s on her way to win the first Women's Olympic Marathon title.

But probably the greatest American runner of the Boston Marathon is Bill Rodgers, who won the event in 1975, 1978, 1979, and 1980. During this same era, he also won the other great marathon of the time, the New York City Marathon, four times. After Bill Rodgers no American dominated the marathon like he did.

In the late 80s the Kenyans and Etheopeans started owning the world major marathons. They pretty much do to this day. We got a resurgence in American marathon running the last six years or so with the major win being the double podium finishes of Meb Keflezighi (silver) and Deena Kastor (bronze) in the 2004 Athens Olympics. Deena went on to win the Chicago and London Marathons in the next few years, but the Kenyans pretty much dominate the sport. Bill Rodger's 4 time modern era streak was recently matched last year when Kenyan Robert Cheruiyot won last year for the fourth time. He runs again this year and threatens Billy's record.

Coming up the ranks in the last few years, however, is Ryan Hall, an American runner who also trains at altitude like the Keyans. He broke the American half marathon record several years back and has run competitively in London Marathon the last couple of years. Ryan trains in Mammoth, California like Meb and Deena, so the advantage of altitude training the Keyans and Ethiopeans naturally have is matched. Ryan is young for a marathon runner and very dedicated to his faith. Can he match the Keyans tommorrow? Bill Rodgers thinks so. I also think he has a shot. Let's hope he can run smart and dig deep into his faith in God and in himself. It would be great to see an American win the Boston Marathon again.

On the women's side, there is also renewed hope of an American women winning the race. Deena took a shot at it 2 years ago, but had some unfortunate intestinal problems that took her out of contention. This year we look to Kara Goucher, a 5k and 10k racer that moved up to her marathon debut at the New York City Marathon last November. She finished in third place in a time of 2:25:53 becoming the first American on the podium since 1994.

Here is a preview video from Runner's Word:

Runner's World Boston Marathon Preview Video

On the home front, I'm in taper mode for St. Anthony's Olypmic Triathlon in St. Petersburg, Florida next Sunday. I did a sprint distance brick (10 miles bike/3.1 mile run) on Saturday as a tune up. Buddy John did an Olympic brick (25 bike/6.2 run) to verify his recovered calf muscle can hold up. I did that for the MIT Olympic tri last month and I fear it may have taken out too much from me for the event. So, I cut it back a bit and hope to break 3 hours at St. Anthony's.

Speaking of "Once and Future Kings," my young son Alex had a field day at school last Wednesday. I tried to get my older son, John, into the running and biking thing, but he doesn't seem interested. Perhaps Alex will take over from me when I can no longer do these events.

I attach a video of his hurdles event.


Missy said...

I'm so hopeful for Ryan Hall. His Runner's World Video was awesome. Fingers crossed for tomorrow. I cant' wait to see it unfold.

EuroWayne said...

Bill...nice job to get folks pumped up for Boston! How amazing it would be if Ryan and pull it off. Also amazing is your son Alex...I suspect he's going to carry on the family tradition of being a jock. When he's 18 yo, he can join us "temptors"...hooray!