SAN FRANCISCO – With only four weeks to go before the Boston Marathon, hordes of Boston-bound Austinites are doing their final long runs and obsessing about the weather. They aren’t obsessing about what the the weather will be on Patriots’ Day (April 20th) quite yet as much as worrying about how the record snowfall in New England might impact their race.
My friends in Boston and the ‘burbs report that even though there’s still plenty of snow on the ground and piled up by the plows on the side of the roads, the streets are clear and clean. Despite the major dumps Boston had this winter, it’s unlikely the snow will have any impact on the actual running of the race other than there might be a few more potholes on the course.
Certainly, much of the snow will melt in the next four weeks but there are still two areas of concern for the marathon: the big athletic fields in Hopkinton where the race is staged and the large snow banks on the streets. Those large, melting piles might necessitate plenty of hand shoveling to dig out areas for the aid stations and if a lot of snow on the sidewalks remain, it will make for some uncomfortably wet conditions for the spectators.
Boston weathered a record snowfall of 108 inches this winter and eclipsed the old record by just an inch. That record was set in the winter of 1995-96 and the greatest effect on that race was how it hindered New Englanders (and others) in their training for the Centennial Boston.
That was a brutal winter up and down the East Coast, particularly in the snow belt region where I lived back then. I don’t recall how much snow we received, but we had so many dumps that the rural roads that I trained on were ice covered and snow-packed all winter long. Even short runs were difficult (and dangerous) as the footing was so treacherous on roads that had been narrowed by the snow piles that only a single car could squeeze through. When that car came through, runners were forced into snow banks or slush puddles.
There was a bunch of us training for Boston that winter and one guy-Budd Coates, a 2:13 marathoner-who was training for the ’96 Olympic Marathon Trials in February. Coates had this pre-marathon routine of doing a 32-miler six weeks out from any marathon, but a massive blizzard the day of his scheduled long run forced him off the roads and onto a treadmill at our fitness center. Hoping to support him, several of us went to the fitness center and moved some treadmills around to run with him in relays while he did his 32-miler. Somehow, Coates got through it and went on to finish 16th in the Trials.
But, there was no way I could do a long run for Boston on a treadmill even though all of our country roads were impossible to run on except for one. The county maintained its snow plows in this one storage garage and the small road that led to and from this facility was the best plowed road in the area and you could actually run on ice-free asphalt. One problem: This perfectly plowed road only extended 1 Â½ -2 miles.
Without any other roads to long run on, groups from all over the area descended on this short stretch on the weekend. There, Boston-training groups did as many as 10-15 mind numbing, out-and back runs (out 1.5 miles or whatever it was, turn around and do it all over again for three hours). It wasn’t a lot of fun, but at least we made it through the winter in reasonable marathon shape.
When we made the drive drove north up to Boston for the 100th Boston, the roads were fine but there was still tons of snow piled up on the side. I’ll never forget passing just north of Hopkinton on the Mass Pike and there was at least 2-3 feet of snow which didn’t bode well for the marathon.
Marathon Monday dawned bright and chilly and even though there was snow in Hopkinton, many of the runners brought out cardboard boxes and tarps so they could lay down and relax on the muddy fields for a couple of hours without getting cold and soaked. The marathon itself was unimpeded by the snow and it was one of the most memorable races in Boston’s history.
History has a way of repeating itself.
O Sad to report that Jim Dunaway died Sunday in Austin at the age of 87. You might not know the name of this native Texan, but Dunaway was one of the most respected (and one of the first) journalists to cover track and field. He started covering track way back in 1956 at his first Olympics (the Melbourne Games) and wrote for Track & Field News, the New York Times, Sports Illustrated and Runner’s World. Elected to the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame in 2010, Dunaway covered every Olympic Trials and Olympics since 1956 until the 2012 London Games when his health prevented him from going. Dunaway wasn’t a journalist by profession (he worked in advertising in New York) as much as someone who loved track and field and the athletes. He retired to Austin several years ago and was a fixture at the Texas Relays.
O My first Olympics was in 1980 and I was one of the dozen or so American journalists who went to Moscow despite the US boycott. Of course, Dunaway was there and he showed me the ropes of what it was like covering the Olympics and just getting around. Jim was pretty intolerant of journalists like me who didn’t share his passion and encyclopedic knowledge of track, but I was always grateful he made an exception for a novice like I was.
O As expected, Los Angeles experienced record heat on Sunday (downtown LA hit 93 degrees) which made for tough conditions in the Asics Los Angeles Marathon. More than 36 runners of the 185 runners treated for medical problems were hospitalized with heat-related issues. Even though it was national championships, only four American guys reached the Olympic Trials qualifying standard of 2:18. (Ryan Hall, the top-ranked American in the field, DNF’ed at 11 miles. Hall is the subject of a profile in this week’s The New Yorker. ) The American women fared a little better with 10 women bettering the 2:43 “B” standard.
O David Fuentes of Austin finished 20th in LA in 2:27:154 which isn’t what he wanted. Mindful of the heat, Fuentes still was on 2:20 pace through 21 miles but gutted out the final five despite the warmth and his aching quads. Matt Williams of San Antonio placed 16th in 2:23:43. Walter Smith, a 50-year-old Austinite who is running Boston, paced his buddy Philippe Bochaton and they crossed the finish together in 3:05:50. The next fastest Austinite was Sarah Silva in 4:05 and second fastest San Antonian was Ramona Teteer in 4:11.
O The women’s race in LA was won by veteran Blake Russell, an ’08 Olympian. Russell, who hadn’t finished a marathon since the ’08 Olympic Marathon, won LA in 2:35:57. Becky Wade of Houston finished eighth in 2:37:43, more than seven minutes off her PR. Jared Ward won the USATF men’s title (he was third overall) in 2:12:56.
O Kelly Williamson, who had won the Puerto Rico 70.3 twice before, DNF’ed last weekend. Former Austinite Patrick Evoe finished ninth among the men pros in 4:08:49. Two age-groupers were actually shot and wounded during the race. Evidently, the two men on the bike leg were caught in a crossfire of shots exchanged between rival drug gangs. One of the men was hit by three bullets in his calf, while the other was hit by a bullet in his left side.
O Parker Stinson capped his collegiate running career for the University of Oregon with a third-place finish in the NCAA Indoors 5000 last Friday night. The former Cedar Park star ran 13:52.79. Craig Lutz of UT was 11th in the same race in 14:12. UT soph Sandie Raines was eighth in the women’s 5000 in 15:55.59.
O A team of Rogue AC women went to Jacksonville last weekend for the USATF 15-K road championships which was won by Amy Hastings in 50:18. Mia Behm led the Rogue women with an eighth-place showing in 52:09, followed by Kristen Findley (53:13), Allison Mendez (53:35) and Sarah Pease (53:57). The Rogue team placed third.
O Capital City Running has been acquired by RunLab and soon splitting their Lakeway location in to half clinic and half retail. Former UT runner Rory Tunningley is leaving his manager position at Texas Running Company Gateway and moving out to the RunLab Lakeway location starting next week.
O Tell me if you have read this one before – “Paul Terranova wins an ultra race”. The number is getting so high we can’t even keep track. Last weekend the ultra-stud took first place in the Ultra Marin 50-Miler held under the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. He doesn’t even look tired in his post-race Facebook photos.
O What I’m listening to this morning: “The Dock of the Bay,” by the great Otis Redding. Recorded in late 1967 just before he died in a plane crash, the single from that epic album is the only posthumous number one in history.
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