Americans Ryan Hall and Kara Goucher both make their debuts in the Boston Marathon tomorrow morning. The race will be broadcast live on NBC's Universal Sports channel. I'm stoked because this year i finally own my own digital TV and I'll be able to watch the event for myself at home. I've never been able to see Boston from start to finish before!
It's extra exciting, because both Goucher and Hall have a legitimate shot at winning the race. The last American male winner was Greg Meyer in 1983. The last American female winner was Lisa Larsen Weidenbach in 1985. So it's been awhile.
Hall actually has the fastest qualifying time of all the men in the field, with the 2:06:17 he ran at last year's London Marathon, though that time was only good for 5th place in that race. The Boston course is far more difficult than London and Hall will be racing a number of men with plenty of Boston experience, including Robert K. Cheruiyot, of Kenya, who has won the last 3 Boston Marathons, and 4 overall. The men's field is not quite as talented as London's was last year, but the top 4 or 5 men are all capable of crossing the line first with strong races. Hall really wants to win. I think, if conditions are favorable, he will knit himself into the lead pack, then hang on Robert Cheruiyot's shoulder. Cheruiyot likes to be in command in the 2nd half, especially in Boston which he has owned for the last 3 years. If Hall, or anyone, can stay with him, the last 5K should be interesting.
American (and 2008 Olympian) Brian Sell will be there, too. Though his PR is five minutes off the top men, he did gut out an impressive 4th place finish in Boston in 2006. He likes to start conservatively and then slowly pick off the runners ahead of him in the 2nd half.
Kara Goucher will be running just her second marathon, having debuted with an impressive 3rd place finish in New York last November. Goucher went to Beijing last summer in the 5 & 10K distances, but after a disappointing showing, she changed gears and went through a slightly abbreviated training schedule for New York. The NYC course is, I can attest by personal experience, a much more difficult course than it often gets credit for, but Goucher still set a record for an American debut marathon. She, too, will be running against the 2008 Boston champ, Dire Tune, from Ethiopia. However, though there is one other former Boston champ in the women's field, many of the other elite females are younger and, like Goucher, relatively new to the distance. In addition many of them have never run a major marathon that offers a course as difficult as Boston's. Goucher experience in New York last fall may prove valuable. It would seem that she has an excellent chance to break the tape tomorrow morning.
The elite women begin their race at 9:30 am EST tomorrow (Monday) morning. The men and the rest of the field start at 10:00 am EST. I'll be glued to my TV with a bowl of cereal in hand.