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Posts Tagged ‘blake russell’

I’d set three different reminders for myself about the Women’s Olympic Marathon, so I would be sure to not miss a minute of coverage. As if I could forget! Even Husband had the schedule burned into his brain, since I called dibs on the TV for this Saturday night (and next Saturday, for the men’s) weeks ago. (Yes, we only have one TV. Cool, right?) My friend TS, the woman I met when Deena, Magda and Blake came to sign autographs at Central Park in June, had since moved to London for work (lucky bitch) but we’d vowed to BlackBerry each other throughout the marathon to compare US and UK coverage. She started the marathon countdown a week ago, god love her.

After my 8-mile tempo run, and hours of restless puttering, Husband took pity on me and we went to Wilkes-Barre to catch an afternoon showing of Batman: The Dark Knight. A fantastic movie, my only complaint being Christian Bale was shirtless in only one scene. On the way home we played “Who’s Hottest to You?” For me, Clive Owen trumped Bale and Johnny Depp, and Husband settled on Natalie Portman over Pam Anderson and Scarlett Johanson.

We quickly slapped together some dinner, and I planted myself in front of the television. TS and I started emailing frantically back and forth — Can you see Deena? Oh there’s Blake on the right! Liz Yelling is still leading. Please don’t mock me when I reveal to you: I cried for Deena when she had to drop out due to a foot injury at the 5k. Not sobbing, but tears of shock, disappointment, and sympathy. I wanted to hug her, but instead I commiserated with TS, who was just as broken-hearted as I was. (This morning, reports confirm she broke her foot.) Huge wishes to Deena for a swift recovery and return to form.

But, the race went on, and we rooted for Blake, and Magda, who dropped out somewhere between 15K and 20K with a knee injury. Again, NBC coverage sucks — I had no idea until I read that this morning; I clearly have givne them too much credit for at least covering our US atheletes. At some point, TS emailed saying that Liz Yelling had taken a tumble and had a huge bruise; again, we never even saw that here. When Constantina made her break, I was thrilled–someone had to do it, and Constantina Tomescu-Dita provides plenty of reasons to root for her. First, she’s 38, the second-oldest woman in the field that day. Also, she’s had a splendid career, winning Chicago in 2004 and coming in second after Deena in 2005 (if you’ve seen Spirit of the Marathon, you’ll recall that gutsy finish), but never quite getting that first-class reputation. I got choked up again when Constantina entered the Bird’s Nest Stadium, hearing the roar go up from the crowd, her blowing kisses. Catherine “the Great” Ndereba summarily dismissed Chinxiu Zhou when she made her move for silver; I swear Ndereba made it look so easy to outkick that Chinese woman around that track, as if she were swatting a fly, I wondered why she hadn’t tried to catch Constantina.  Blake Russell finished in 2:33:13, well within the top half of the field. I can’t find video yet, but if you fast-forward through the shots of Paula crying, you’ll still see a few images of the marathon. NBC has posted official results and split times. And I really like Burfoot’s opining about champions, injuries, and class acts (although he doesn’t himself use that term).

Even though it was only 10 PM, I went straight to bed, exhausted from my tempo run and needing a solid eight hours before my 16 this morning. After watching the women’s marathon, I was even more excited than usual for my Sunday long run. It was so relaxing, slowing down the pace, it feels like I’m misbehaving. I ran up Route 940 (yet again; my creativity has failed me here in the Poconos) all the way to the on ramp for I-380, then turned around and came back. When I started, the car thermometer said 55 degrees; by the time I’d returned, it said 76. My 10:25 pace felt just right, and I completed the approximately 16 miles in 2:46:37, imagining Constantina the whole way.

Curiosity is starting to get the better of me: how well will I run at the Queens Half in a month?

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Earlier this week they held the lottery for the Nike New York City Half-Marathon and the ING New York City Marathon. Luckily, I wasn’t relying on an entry through the lottery for the full, but unless I wanted to be a charity runner, I had no other options for the half but to leave my participation up to the Fates.

Last year, they were cruel, shutting me out of both the half and the full. I couldn’t help it, I took it personally. It seemed like everyone I knew had gotten in to the half; I was the only one left out. And when my friend JM from Chicago got in to the full, I just knew the deck was stacked. I moped for a week, trying hard to be excited for her but really in my heart feeling like it should have been me. After all, I thought, as I ticked off my higher qualifications, I a) live in this city; b) have been an avid spectator of the event for years; 3) run over the middle passage bridge practically every day; and f) am a member of the NYRR’s. By comparison, JM’s flimsy cred was built on speed, years of athleticism under her belt, a passion for running, and an out-of-state driver’s license. Seriously, folks: what good is an international race if there aren’t some (namely: me) local New Yawkahs in the mix to keep all the interlopers in check?

Once I was done moping, I responded to this unlucky turn the way the best runners respond to any adversity. I rose from the ashes of my defeat and said, fuck ’em, I’m running my nine qualifying races now so no durn for’ner can take away my rightful spot among the 40,000 competitors in 2008! (Never mind that I could have run for Team for Kids or Fred’s Team with a fundraising entry; I don’t look good in lime green or orange.) So I showed up at the 2007 race and cheered my guts out for the fabulous JM. I also ran my nine; and this November 2nd I’ll be racing over my city’s bridges and through her avenues with a whole bunch of French, Dutch, Italian, and Chicagoan (apparently) marathoners.

But this year, once again, the Fates governing the raffle barrel spitefully turned their backs on me for the Nike NYC Half-Marathon. I was not selected to be one of the thousands of runners who get to tear through the streets of Manhattan, in hot pursuit of the world-class athletes who get to actually toe the line at 6 AM that day. I suppose there are some folks who accept this, easy come easy go, but that’s not me. I am disappointed. There, I’ve said it. I am pouting over a theoretically fair selection process that would have only been truly fair (in my mind) if I’d been selected.

My disappointment would have, um, dissipated quickly if it hadn’t been for the form letter I received from the New York Road Runners via email on Monday informing me of my No-Entry status. I quote:

I hope you will still visit New York, whether in August or at another time. We host races in New York City almost every weekend…. [yadda yadda]… For complete information about all New York Road Runners races and membership, go to the NYRR’s website at…” etc. etc.

An earlier part of the letter went on to describe how if I lived outside the U.S. or New York, I could purchase a tour package for my guaranteed entry. Couldn’t they at least compose and send out a separate email for their members who were shut out of the race, maybe something that included an insider joke, or encouraged us all to volunteer, or to show up and cheer for the elites and the pack? Maybe I expect too much; maybe I should thank them for bringing Deena, Magda and Blake to meet us, and just shut up and sit down. But I can’t help but wishing that us card-carrying local runners, who spend hundreds of dollars each year on NYRR race registration fees, were treated as members of the club, rather than as just another possible tourist who wants to run through the Big Apple.

(Done with my sour grapes now. You know I’ll be there as a spectator, supporting my friends who got in or are running for charity, having a blast, and trying to catch a glimpse of whichever elites they can get to race this thing so damn close to the Olympics.)

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Thank you Mary Wittenberg, thank you New York Road Runners, holy freaking cow I just met Deena Kastor, Magdalena Lewy-Boulet, and Blake Russell! Our 2008 Women’s Olympic Marathon team is making a special appearance in the Mini on Saturday–that’s right, all three women will be running the 10k–and since they’re in town they stopped by the NYRR’s Runner Station, which has been set up every day this week in Central Park in celebration of Runner’s Week.

It’s events like this that compel me to check NYRR.org nearly every day. They are always announcing elites’ entries in their pro races somewhat at the last minute (I am sure that has more to do with the elites than with the NYRR’s). I mean, if it had been even one of the three marathoners, I’d have been psyched, but all three? Ice the cupcake then tell me it has no calories, why don’t you! It doesn’t get much better than that.

I got there 15 minutes early and sat on the bench nervously waiting, afraid mobs would arrive and I’d be stuck in the back. There weren’t mobs, just a nice mingling little crowd (I couldn’t believe there weren’t mobs. That’s just sad.)  The NYRR’s graciously provided postcards for us, which the women signed for us. (I’m getting it matted and framed tomorrow.)  I wanted to shake their hands, so I introduced myself. Then I requested a photo, which the women kindly smiled for.

First of all, these women are teeny tiny. Like little birds. I think Deena’s entire hip measurement is like my thigh measurement.  But, they each had such beautiful, radiant smiles, I was really struck by how gorgeous they all are. Deena clearly knew the drill — she was interviewed, she gave the answers, she smiled, she was aware of the cameras — and had an air of celebrity about her. But Magda and Blake were a little less experienced, they had a freshness about them, maybe less of a screen, or something. (I could be intuiting too much.) 

Let me say now: I definitely was starry-eyed, and got tongue-tied talking to Magda, as memories of her amazing Trials race flashed through my mind (this is that girl!). After I met Deena (who was last in the receiving line), I was a little shaky. You can kind of see a bug-eyed astonishment in my photos with them.

I hung around for the full hour, and kept taking photos to the point where I hoped they wouldn’t consider me a stalker. During this event, which started to feel like a cocktail party with recovery drinks, I met another avid runner, TS, a woman who is as equally entranced by the elites as I am. As we swapped names and sightings of our favorite pros, it was like clicking with a kindred spirit.  Finally, another geeky fan! We stood there chatting as we snapped pictures of the athletes. I then took pictures of TS with each of the marathoners, and that was surreal. As I looked through the viewfinder, I thought, I am taking a photograph of an elite runner who I usually only see in photographs, not in personTypically, the trippy moments in my running come at mile 18, not when I’m standing in Central Park in my work clothes with my Fendi bag slung over my shoulder.

What an amazing evening. Oh and the “finishing kick”–I got a totally cool wristband. I am sorry I missed Grete Waitz last night (the original pigtailed-marathoner), but I was running my first-ever double (more on that later). Surely she would understand.

The Wristband:

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DISCLAIMER: These photos are blurry.  An unfortunate series of events led to these blurry mementos of a historic day of racing. First, the battery died on my digital camers (my fault). Second, I bought a disposable camera to use in its place. And third, the female athletes in the race ran so fast that they ended up as slightly streaky representations of themselves.

Magdalena Lewy Boulet already in the lead as she passes spectators on Boylston Street for the second time.

Deena Kastor, Blake Russell and Mary Akor in the front of the pack, trailing Magda.

Deena around Mile 21, after she broke away from the pack and begins to close the gap between her and Magda.

Magda running her last pass on Comm Ave.  Does she know Deena is catching up?

Deena ran so close to the crowd we all could have touched her without stretching.  She’d cut about ten seconds off Magda’s lead just in the U-turn from Boylston onto Comm Ave.

Joan Benoit Samuelson.

Desiree Davila.

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Tomorrow I will have a moment to take my disposable camera (the one I had to buy when my own camera’s battery died after the first lap of the Trials) in for digital developing.  Tomorrow night I’ll post many more photos (hopefully close-ups); but for now, hopefully these three will suffice.

Passing Exeter Street in the first lap.  Left to right, the soon-to-be named Women’s Olympic Marathon Team: nn the white tee-shirt and sunglasses, #43 Magdalena Lewy Boulet; to her right, #17 Blake Russell in black; and to her right, #1 Deena Kastor in her white cap and blue top.  See dark-haired Desiree Davila in her Hansons-Brooks Distance Project singlet?  She ran in fourth place for much of the latter part of the race until she fell back to finish 13th somewhere within the last four miles. No doubt we’ll see her back here in 2012.

Same lap, different view of the pack. These were the women who inspired me, as I imagined what a complete thrill, and fulfillment of a dream, to have a chance to try out for the Olympics. See that woman in the black singlet, black shorts, and bib number on her butt? Everytime she ran past us, she had a smile on her face, even though she was always one of the last few runners.  When we cheered for her, she’d break out in an even bigger grin.  I think it’s Kim Pawelek (who’s been here before), but I can’t remember exactly which place she finished (third-to-last or second-to-last). See, this is where my romanticizing of the sport comes in, who knows what these women were really thinking or feeling that day. Maybe they were like, Oy, enough already. When is this thing gonna be over? Deena Schmeena!

Hydration Station. Nutrition Junction.  Call it what you will, each lady had their own fuel set up by number on Comm Ave.

 

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After the drama and style of the Men’s Olympic Marathon Trials in November, I was anticipating the Women’s Trials with equal parts excitement and trepidation.  Excitement, because I would have the chance to watch women like Deena Kaston, Elva Dryer, Kate O’Neill and Joan Benoit Samuelson do their miraculous thing.  Trepidation, because could the women’s race live up to the amazing spectating experience of the men’s challenging criterion course in Central Park?

I don’t know why I was worried.  The marathon rarely lacks for surprises, because as we know anything can happen over 26.2 miles.  Add to that another criterion course through the heart of downtown Boston, a town that is packed full of the best marathoners in the country, and a beautiful 50-degree day, and there was magic in the air.

Up at 6:45 (it felt like Christmas morning), out the door at 7:25 (am staying with a friend who lives 4 blocks from the Boylston Street finishline), and in position by 7:40.  I was going to try and cross the Mass Ave Bridge into Cambridge to watch from there, but realized I could see the runners ten times if I stayed on Boylston Street and ran over to Comm Ave and back.  While we waited for the women to come by on their next laps, the crowd was chatty, swapping information on the competitors and personal race stories. Everyone I met was totally cool, the best examples of why runners are great people.  I met the families of a few of the competitors, too, including a woman who had competed on the same high school track team as Kate O’Neil.

And then, with a gunshot, they were off in a tight pack. They moved past us in a brightly-colored cluster, and it was nearly impossible to pick out the runners.  (My only complaint: the runners only had numbers, unlike the men’s trials where they wore their names on their front and their numbers on their backs.)  And immediately we were all dashing over to Comm Ave to catch them as they headed back for the first crossing of the Mass Ave Bridge, after the only hill of the entire course.  Still tightly bunched, but beginning to spread out now. I took a few photos of this but am having trouble getting them off my camera; I’ll post them as soon as I get home.

For the first four loops, the front pack was more or less consistent, with Deena in her white cap striding with Kate O’Neill and assorted others.  I say the front pack, because Deena was not the frontrunner until somewhere after mile 22 — Magdalena Lewy Boulet led by nearly two minutes for most of the race.  In fact, when the women came around for the final Boston leg of their race, when we saw Magda on Boylston, she had a 1:17 lead on Deena (who had broken away from the pack) and then when we saw her just minutes later on Comm Ave, her lead was down to 57 seconds.  Wow!  That’s when my merry band of fellow spectators and I all got totally jazzed for what was going to happen next.  We couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen when the runners came over the Mass Ave Bridge for the final time up Boylston to the finish line.

So, I waited for most of the field to pass on Comm Avenue before heading back to Boylston–a small mistake since I was now boxed out from a front row view.  I stood there in a cluster of three women who are running Boston tomorrow, and another who had run the hot Chicago Marathon just this past Fall, and we speculated on who we’d see first over that bridge, Deena or Magda.  And so, when the motorcade came, I stretched and craned and the second I spotted that white cap I shouted, “It’s Deena!” and a charge moved through the crowd.  We saw her coming up on us, taking one last long look behind her, in case Magda had been on her heels. But no. Deena passed us by and still no sign of Magda.  And then, there she was, with Blake Russell following far behind her, too. 

I am thrilled for each of these women, clearly Magda ran the race of her life, and it was a magnificent upset for the spectators, probably not-so-magnificent for favorites Elva and Kate.  (In fact, I don’t remember seeing Elva on the course; am waiting for the official results–I am wondering if she got a DNC.) Another thrill of the race was getting to cheer for Joanie.  I got some fabulous photos of her, and the other leaders, as the race went on. (Sorry, you’ll have to wait for me to post them; after the first loop my camera battery died and I had to buy a disposable.)

More posts to follow as final results are available online, etc. To summarize now: an exciting, historic day in women’s marathoning. Bring on Beijing!

LINKS: Boston Globe coverage. WCSN.com coverage. WCSN photos.

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