BOSTON—I don’t know about you, but this is my favorite time of the year: Boston Marathon Week. I might hate the Red Sox, but love this town and can’t imagine being anywhere else the third Monday in April.
Since 1978, I’ve been coming here nearly every year for the marathon and nothing about it ever gets old. The fact that Tuesday was the one-year anniversary of the bombings accentuated the emotions that I felt just walking along Boylston Street yesterday as I passed Marathon Sports (right where the first bomb went off) and the finish line which has been repainted even earlier than normal. And that means the parade of folks taking selfies on the finish line has begun.
As is traditional for me, I met my friend Amby Burfoot this morning for our annual run along the bike path on the Charles. Amby won Boston way back in 1968 and he’s still a rock star here. He and I have run hundreds and hundreds of times together, but running with him on the Charles on marathon weekend is always special. There were only a few marathoners out on this bitter cold (high 20s), windy morning run, but as usual, I am struck with the same feeling I have every April in Boston: This is our Masters.
Of course, the major difference is you and I are running (or could be; I’m relegated to the 5-K this year), rather than just watching on TV. We are the players. This is our Championships. We don’t have a green jacket, but our Boston champions get a laurel wreath.
Every runner who will gather in Hopkinton on Monday will feel special, honored and blessed to be here. For some of us, just qualifying for Boston is the culmination of years of training. But nobody comes to Boston just to jog or clown around. The Boston course is hallowed ground and every qualifier is here to run his/her best marathon.
Clearly, Boston is extra special this year. Without a shadow of doubt, this is the most significant Boston in its 118-year history. The 100th Centennial Boston had a greater number of marathoners, but that was more a celebration of its history than anything else.
This year, too, will be celebrated and enjoyed by spectators and marathoners alike, but the bombings of last April 15th will never be forgotten. Hundreds of lives were forever altered last April and the marathon has had to change too.
But what hasn’t changed is the very soul of this race. Boston is so loved by the city (and the other eight cities along the course) that people who ordinarily couldn’t care less about running, embrace this marathon like no other race. A couple of disaffected morons, who murdered and maimed so many people, couldn’t put a dent into that.
Security this year is going to be intense. Especially along Boylston Street for the final downhill parade to the finish where officials expect double the usual number. The raw emotions will almost certainly temper the wild celebrations that take place, but it’s still the best stretch of road in marathoning. That is without dispute. Every runner is welcomed back to the finish as a Boston Marathoner.
Nothing is better.
O At least at this point, the weather forecast for Marathon Monday couldn’t possibly be any better: Overcast, cool (low 50s) with a south by southwest wind of 8-10 mph. But, as they say in Boston, if you don’t like the weather, wait a minute and it will change. The forecasters are now saying there’s a 50-50 chance it could rain and even be a touch warmer than predicted. Boston Marathon weather is notorious for its changes—even during the race. So stay tuned.
O If you are running Boston on Monday, you’ll probably notice a huge increase in the fencing along the course due to heightened security. What you probably won’t notice is a couple of miles of fencing in Brookline (around Cleveland Circle, mile 22-23) is actually from Austin. A crew from Cadence Sports will time and fence the Louisville Derby Festival Marathon on Saturday (April 19th) and then truck their equipment to Boston and set up on Sunday for Marathon Monday.
O More for Boston marathoners: Stock up on old sweatshirts and sweatpants that you can wear to Hopkinton on Monday and then toss. As you probably already know, there won’t be any gear check in Hopkinton and you can’t bring anything (other than what you’re wearing) on the busses. There is gear check at the Boston Commons, but you’ll probably need additional clothes for the long trek out to Hopkinton and the even longer wait for the race to start.
O Aerosmith—the Bay Boys from Boston—are honoring its hometown with a new rendition of “Dream On” which aired for the first time on Saturday. “Dream On”, which was the first song written by Joe Perry and Steven Tyler while living on Beacon Street in 1972, rerecorded their classic with the Southern California Children’s Choir and Tyler changed the lyrics to “Boston got its heart broken…but if they think they can keep us down, they can “Dream On.” Aerosmith first played this new version a month after the bombings at a Boston Strong benefit concert and the video is designed as a fund raiser.
O The long-awaited Boardwalk on the Lady Bird Lake/Butler Trail is almost completed. When it’s officially opened, the Boardwalk will close the 1.1-mile gap along the south side of the trail and allow runners, cyclists and walkers to cover the trail without crossing I-35. Not exactly sure what still needs to be done, but the Grand Opening has been scheduled for June 7th. The ceremonies will be held at 9 a.m. at Southeast Shore Park along Lakeshore Boulevard where a new bathroom is being installed. Trail Foundation president Susan Rankin said there will be plenty of dignitaries, including Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell and a musical guest who she won’t name. Coincidentally, the Trail Foundation’s primary fund raiser—the Maudie’s Moonlight Margarita Run—will celebrate its 10th anniversary on June 12th.
O The 10/20 race last Sunday at The Domain had over 5000 runners, but next year as a way to expand the field the race will move to a better race date on the last weekend in March. Meanwhile, the Capitol 10,000, moves back to April 12th to avoid a conflict with Easter Sunday (April 5th next year). The 10/20 series, which now has two races (here and in Del Mar, California), will expand to three next year as race director Peter Douglass says he’s adding a 10/20 in Wisconsin.
O Also in the shifting race date biz, the Zilker Relays is moving back from its Labor Day weekend date to a week later in September. And next year, the Relays might shift to a spring date.
O Ali Mendez had a great race on Sunday to win the women’s division of the 10/20 race in 56:45. What made her race especially notable was her prize money earnings totaled $4100—a whopping sum for a non-marathon. Mendez’ haul may have been the greatest for any Austin-based runner in years, particularly a woman. Desiree Ficker won $50,000 when she placed second in the Hawaii Ironman World Championships and certainly former UT track stars Leo Manzano, Trey Hardee and Sanya Richards Ross won plenty on the world track circuit, but Mendez may be the new leader in the women’s clubhouse for a single road race. Too bad there aren’t more races in Austin with significant prize money that could attract glittering fields and foster greater interest.
O Speaking of DesFick, the former pro triathlete won the Zooma Half Marathon in Bastrop last Saturday at the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines. Ficker, who ran Zooma last April while five months pregnant with Beau, ran 1:30:21 in warm conditions to finish ahead of Jennifer Fisher in 1:31:38.
O Congrats to Austin-area triguys and gals who finished the New Orleans 70.3. Scott Ryan finished in 5:10, while Gray Skinner crossed the finish in 5:32. The race was marred by a pre-race bike accident that claimed the life of Atlanta Fire Rescue Department Sgt. Frank Guinn who left behind a wife and seven-year-old triplet daughters. Frank’s wife somehow had the courage to say a few words before the start of the 70.3 on Sunday. Also severely injured with a broken spine in the accident (they were rear ended by a car which was driven by a driver on a suspended license) was Guinn’s brother-in-law, Andrew Powell, who manages a Big Peach Running Store in Kennesaw, Georgia.
O If you thought two-time Olympic 1500-meter gold medalist Sebastian Coe did a great job leading the London Olympics, he may take over the IAAF, the world federation of track and field next year. Lord Coe, who is 57, is currently one of three vice presidents of the IAAF and has said he is interested in taking over the IAAF when outgoing president Lamine Diack term is over after 16 years. Diack, it is believed, supports Coe’s candidacy.
O What I’m listening to this morning: “Toys in the Attic”, the third album by Aerosmith and their first truly great album.
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