The Men and Women turned in two incredibly different races at the 113th Boston Marathon this morning. The Women posted the slowest finish in 24 years, and the Men launched out of the gate at a blistering tempo, passing the the first 5K in a time that translated to 2:03 marathon pace.
The end result for the Americans was the same on both sides: Kara Goucher and Ryan Hall each took 3rd place, the first time Americans have earned spots on both podiums since 1985.
There are already far better and more informed race reports available out on the web than anything I could cobble together, so I'll simply post a few links to those at the bottom.
I will say, it was incredible to watch Hall and Goucher racing on either half of my television screen during the live coverage this morning. It was Hall who set and led that murderous pace for the first 10K of the men's race, totally foiling my prediction that he would tuck in somewhere and wait, wait, wait. Instead he made a statement from the first step, and he stayed near the front of the lead pack, constantly in the mix until Deriba Merga (Ethiopia) made what turned out to be the definitive move after 18 miles. Merga powered ahead over the Newton Hills and by the time he had crested Heartbreak at 21, he had a 45 second lead. Merga has a reputation for being aggressive that way and then fading at the end, but he held on strong today for his first win at a major.
Hall initially fell a good distance back after Merga's charge. The lead pack had been 11 or 12 when Merga broke. A number of the men tried to go, too, but Hall held back and initially slipped to 9 and 10th place. A few marathons ago, that might have been it for him, but his experience is starting to show. He held strong through the hills and on each downhill moved up a little more, picking off a number of the top East Africans who had tried to keep touch with Merga. Hall made one last push in the final half-mile and nearly caught Daniel Rono (Kenya) for 2nd place. He was only 8 seconds back when he finally crossed the line.
The truly excellent folks at Flotrack.org have already posted this video interview with Hall from after the race. Listen to him talking about his own future pursuit of major marathon victory, with a "It's gonna be relentless. I'm just going keep coming back the next year and the next year and the next year..." and tell me you can't get fired up about this guy.
Goucher, on the other hand, was there and very strong for the entire race until the final half mile. The super slow pace of the women's race seemed like it could play to Goucher's strength as a track athlete and sprinter. It was Goucher who began to amp up the speed and gradually drop the hammer on the large lead pack with only 10K to go. With 2 miles left she had dropped everyone but last year's winner Dire Tune (Ethiopia) and Salina Kosgei (Kenya), both of whom stayed right on her heels, until, with about 800 meters to go, they both made their move on her.
Goucher made an effort to stay with them, and for a long moment I really thought she was about to power back ahead and maybe leave them behind. Kosgei and Tune were only a few meters in front of her and she - literally - pulled off both her gloves and slung them down to the side of the road. It was a powerful image and it had my emotions rising and my bottom on the edge of the couch. In the end, though, she just couldn't bring them back, and while Kosgei barely held off Tune for a 1 second win, Goucher finished 8 more seconds behind.
It was heartbreaking to see Goucher, moments across the finish line, in tears of frustration and exhaustion, knowing how much control she'd had for so long in the race, and how close she had come, only to see it slip away in the final minutes. It's so completely easy for me to identify with, because I've been through that exact same marathon scenario. Even if my magical goal wasn't as lofty as hers, breaking four hours meant just as much to me as winning the whole thing would have meant to her today.
Goucher cried, too, after her 3rd place finish last November in New York, but those were tears of pride and joy, finishing on the podium in her debut marathon. Her emotions today, post-race were easy proof of just how badly she wanted to win this thing today. Watch her here, at the official post race press conference (again, posted by those awesome Flotrack folks), and see how she was still struggling with her emotions, as she so honestly answers the reporters' questions. And again, here, interviewed a little later by Mark from Flotrack.
No doubt about it now: I'm a Kara Goucher and Ryan Hall fan. Kara says she's planning to try and have a baby with her husband Adam Goucher instead of running a marathon this Fall, but I'm hoping that Ryan Hall elects to run Chicago this year instead of New York or Berlin. I have a feeling he may want to return to the site of his Olympic Trials Triumph, but we'll see.
For more complete Boston Marathon Race Coverage, check out these links:
The Science of Sport Blog by Jonathan & Ross
Amby Burfoot's Report on Hall for Runner's World (which also includes plenty more excellent race coverage)
Here's the link to the Boston Athletic Association's Marathon homepage
And Finally, be sure to spend plenty of time exploring the video tidbits at Flotrack.org