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Posts Tagged ‘dire tune’

My marathon, my 26.2, my London is in 8 days.  But first, I am going to Boston to spectate. I will stand at the finish line and cheer for the elite men, then the elite women, and then finally for the speedsters, my friends, the riff-raff and the charity runners. This is one of the touchpoints of my annual cycle as a runner. One year, I will be there as a qualified racer, but for now, I must go, cheer and draw inspiration and motivation from the fastest among us. Normally I like to arrive Saturday night so I can poke around the Expo on Sunday–lots of companies use it as their launch for new products (it’s where I first set my sights on the Garmin Forerunner 405 in 2007)–but this year life’s twisted around to prevent me from leaving before Sunday afternoon.

This morning I ran 8.14 miles (let’s not forget the 0.14 miles, kids!!) and nearly the entire time I thought of my friends who will be racing the epic, historic course. Elyssa. Sarah (also a GMR teammate). Barb, a long-time blog reader who I hope to one day meet. Jeff. And Michael, who owns the PT clinic I use when I must. Robert and Antonia (also GMR teammates). Goodness gracious I am positive I’ve left folks off. Perhaps now is the time for me to say I love my network of NYC runners, it makes me so happy every year when I pull a few more quality people who run into my orbit. One day I want to have a massive party with everyone, where we celebrate our accomplishments and talk about running all night long. I digress.

The elites. Predictions. Yah, me & strict predictions is always a mess.  So I will tell you who I am rooting for, which is tricky. I am rooting for Meb and Ryan equally, since I love them equally. This is the thing about marathon runners: the closest thing we’ll ever get to a grandstanding athlete like baseball’s Manny Ramirez, football’s* Chad “Ocho Cinco” Johnson or Terrell Owens (ugh, end-zone dancing), or basketball’s Dennis Rodman is Sammy Wanjiru, who has publicly said he wants to break Gebreselassssie’s records. Which goes to show: Meb and Ryan play nice. they train together, they race together, they each hope to win but manage their victories or disappointments solo.  I guess deep down I want Ryan to win, the golden child, but I would still jump for joy if Meb did, too. I would like to see last year’s winner, Deriba Merga, run a strong race as well. Even though he won Boston last year, I still consider him an underdog, given his past racing results. As far as the women’s race goes, I am not so invested without Kara in the field–in fact, the only American LetsRun.com mentions in the bios is Michelle Frey, and I’ve never heard of her. (Perhaps that is my bad.) Nevertheless, I will root for Tune and Kosgei.

I ran this morning, my last chunky mileage run before race day (anything less than 15 really doesn’t count as a long run, does it?). It was nice, easy and humid. It’s the humidity that gets you, that’s what we said in Baltimore but it’s true for wherever there is moist air. It really does make the effort harder. Nevertheless, I managed to pull out a decent showing as I ran from Sunnyside to Astoria Park, around the park with a loop of the track, and then back home again. This is my “Hell Gate” route, since it takes me alongside of and next to the Hell Gate Bridge (and the Triboro). I like to run familiar routes the closer I get to my big race, because their familiarity makes me feel like the mistress of my universe, and therefore boosts my confidence.  8.14 miles in 1:16:40. Average pace 9:25; fastest mile 9:05; slowest mile 9:48

*I must admit I got these football names from Husband. But the baseball & basketball references are my own.

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Had family obligations landed differently on the calendar, I’d have come to Boston earlier, to watch Shalane Flanagan, Anna Willard and Ian Dobson run the Invitational Mile yesterday, and to attend the Expo. The Expo is nearly as inspiring as the marathon itself. Wandering around in a mass of the best marathoners in the country, at the peak of their fitness, I get jumpy with the thought that I want to belong to this fast tribe! But, for this year, at least, I would just swoop in and out to watch the race. 

JG and I watched the women’s 9:32 AM start on TV then gathered up our stuff and headed to the finish line to wait for a couple of hours. The announcer was pretty good about calling the race for us, letting us know who was leading and falling off the pack; I also had my trusty UK correspondent TS emailing me updates to my Blackberry. JG is easy, lighthearted company, and we stood there swapping stories and complaints, catching up the way only two women can (ceaseless chatter punctuated with laughter and exclamations of astonishment). I’ve somehow taken on Matt’s bias towards runners who train in Colorado so I was thrilled to know that Colleen de Reuck and Elva Dryer were hanging on tight with the lead pack for so long. But really, it was just encouraging to see these three American women leading the Africans. Around Mile 19, two things seemed to happen at once: Kara began to push the pace to break up the pack, and Deriba Merga completely pulled away from the rest of the elite men. Both exciting, gusty moves and I wished I could have seen them. (I will later.) By the time Kara was at Mile 23, I was fidgeting anxiously, pulling my course map in and out of my pocket, futzing with my tin of lip balm, and scrolling crazily through my Blackberry’s inbox. Fandom is a strange affliction, and having Kara so close to victory, so close at hand, was more than I could bear calmly. JG laughed fondly at me. When it became apparent that Dire Tune and Salina Kosgei were not only at Kara’s shoulder but also inching ahead of her, I began to pray. I was afraid of Dire’s bitter kick. Finally, finally the women turned onto Boyleston Street and sprinted towards us, where I stood in a mass of people, screaming my head off. It was clear from where I stood that Kosgei had it; I watched the two yellow singlets streak by and tears welled up behind my sunglasses. Kara would be third. She came by next looking like a giant after the two diminutive African women (Kara is the tiniest woman I’ve ever met). Her legs seemed heavy even though she was moving at an incredible clip, and her face was dismantled, whether it was from physical struggle or emotional distress I was unable to tell. All I could think was how the disappointment must be crushing all the air out of her; my heart ached for her. She has to face a cold reality when she considers her third place finish: even though it’s amazing to have two Americans on the podium at Boston, it’s all conciliatory small talk, really. 

Then a few more Africans trundled through, and Lidiya Grigoryeva, and I had to pick my spirits up and cheer like a madwoman for Colleen de Reuck, who finished 8th as the top women’s finisher. Wow, what a comeback, what an amazing finish! 45 years old! And she looked super-fit, lanky as all get-out. I was so happy for her, and that we had two American women in the top ten. I also recognized Veena Reddy when she pranced by with her black hair streaming loose behind her; I saw her race here at the trials last year. 

Soon, Merga was there in his orange singlet (because the women’s race was so slow, he caught them), bounding towards the finish line. I couldn’t help but be happy for him; he was grinning from ear to ear and he had so much to vindicate, most notably how he hit the wall at the Olympics, his whole race falling apart on the track with less than 400 meters to go to a bronze medal. I was glad he won. Some African dude I’d never heard of came in second. And Ryan Hall our Great Golden Hope, pulled out a third place finish, which frankly I am jazzed about. We all cheered our lungs out for Ryan–he is such a beautiful runner–and I had flashbacks of his inspiring finish at the trials in Central Park, where we were chanting his name. I am impressed with the way he reeled in half a dozen runners to get back into podium position in the final miles of the race.

Elva Dryer dropped off the pack to finish 12th, and Brian Sell, who looked like he was hurting at the end (his form was all crumpled forward, poor kid), finished 14th, in 2:16:31. Awe, Brian. JG and I lingered for hours more, watching the crowds pour through. I saw my physical therapist run by, and an old TNT coach. We cheered and cheered. My thoughts kept wandering to Kara, what was she doing, how was she feeling? I was glad she had Adam there. Back on the course, I saw more than a few women sporting pigtails. At a certain point I had a pang of sadness as I realized my moment at the finish line has been indefinitely deferred. I smiled when I saw couples running across the finish line, hands clasped together and raised like champions. I was excited for all the runners, understanding everything they’d done–training for their qualifying race, grabbing the brass ring, training through one of our worst winters ever, and finally beating those hills and that headwind– to get to the blue and yellow finish line in Copley Square. I admire them, every single one. 

Last year, when I watched this race, I wasn’t yet sure if I could run a Boston-qualifying time, or if I even dared to believe I could. But now, with NYC in my pocket, I do dare. This knowledge made for a different spectating experience, definitely more vicarious. One day I will be you, I thought as my gaze pinpointed a woman striding towards the finish with a grin spread across her face. I am injured now, but that’s just for right now.

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Tonight, I’m heading up to Boston on the Acela for the Boston Marathon. I’ll stay with my friend JG and her husband in their gorgeous duplex condominium (yes, I totally covet their residence, with its open floorplan and modern design) which is just a few blocks away from the finish line in Copley Square. Tomorrow, JG and I will watch the beginning of the race on TV, then head over to the finish line to stand and wait for the elites to come on through.

It’s a big deal, having Kara and Ryan in the mix, and Robert Cheruiyot and Dire Tune back to defend their titles. Plus, each year I know more and more runners from within my own circle who are in the field, and it’s fun to scream them on as they take the final steps to the finish line, too. The finish line is a pretty inspiring place to watch a race, and I need all the inspiration I can get these days. (I’ll have to convert the “runspiration” into “recumbent bikespiration” and “ellipticalspiration.”) I’m destined to be a spectator for at least a couple of more years, but I don’t mind.

Without further ado, my predictions for 1 through 3 in both the men’s and the women’s race. These are of course meaningless since as we all know, anything can happen in the marathon.

Men’s

  1. Robert Cheruiyot
  2. Ryan Hall
  3. Deriba Merga

Women’s

  1. Kara Goucher
  2. Dire Tune
  3. Bezunesh Bekele

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The Berlin Marathon marked the beginning of the Fall season, it being the first of the three World Majors (Chicago and my NYC follow) that occur in the second half of the year (Boston and London are in the Spring, which you should all already know)… Haile owns this race, having set the world record there last year; and now he’s gone and set another world freaking record while also ensuring himself a spot in history as the first man to run 26.2 miles in under 2:04. Hubba hubba, who needs the Olympics?… I am psyched to see Irina Mikitenko win again, I watched her win London last year on my computer…  The elite field for NYC is nothing short of spectacular, Mary & Corps have really outdone themselves this Olympic year…. As I mentioned earlier, my girl Kara will be debuting her 26.2 mile chops… Also joining will be Paula to defend her title, 2007 World Marathon Majors winner Gete Wami, 2008 Boston Marathon winner Dire Tune, the majestic Catherine Ndereba. Among the male elites, I am most excited about Paul Tergat, Marilson Gomes dos Santos, and Abderrahim Goumri (he came in second after Martin Lel last year)… With each new name the NYRR’s releases, I feel a pang that I won’t be at my usual spot in Queens to watch these inspiring athletes flash by…. I ran my last 20-miler of training on Sunday, actually logging 20.33 miles in 3:09, wow. Ideally October 12th would have been my last 20-miler before taper, but I am determined not only to run the Staten Island Half-Marathon, but to race it… As my training winds down, I can already sense the post-race blues which await me. My friend and colleague EG recommended I read A Race Like No Other to get myself psyched for race day, since oddly I’ve begun to lose enthusiasm for this race I’ve been dreaming about for over a year… Has anyone read A Race Like No Other yet? I know I sent out some free copies… The reviews have been very positive, with an excerpt in this month’s Runner’s World, and an early mention in the New York Post. Library Journal says the book “is poetry for runners; pulsing and energizing in its immediacy, and as raw and persistent as its subject.” Now if only I could get someone to say that about Pigtails FlyingBenjamin Cheever writes in his review in The New York Times that Liz Robbins “packed her book with scrumptious details…” I expect more book coverage as marathon madness heats up in the city; early last week I received my info booklet in the mail, and today I saw my first subway ad as I headed down into the E/V at Fifth Avenue to go to acupuncture… My little G was a perfect running buddy yesterday, it amazed me when I ran past the point in the route I’d always sensed, viscerally, was the 10-mile point. I looked down at little G, who told me: 9.95 miles! See, he and I already have a special connection…One of my industry contacts works support crew in ultramarathons, even though she herself specializes in 5- and 10k’s. She passed me an article by Sunny Blende from the September 2008 issue of UltraRunning magazine that explains why I sweat more now than I ever have before during my runs: “you will sweat sooner and more as you increase your miles and become more fit.” Sweet!… Husband spent the weekend at the Pennsylvania house, leaving me pining away for the mountains’ Fall foliage. Fittingly, Manhattan User’s Guide has raked together all the links we need to get our peep on… And, will someone please give me a massive pile of cash so I can redecorate my apartment entirely from West Elm? Browsing this catalog is like staring at Clive Owen behind glass–he’s right there, and so, so gorgeous, but I just…can’t…touch.

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[It is a sad, sorry statement on how hard I’ve been working that my Boston Marathon spectator report is getting posted in May.]

If I were to tell people I traveled & took a day off work to go to the SuperBowl, no one would question me.  In fact they’d be jealous. But when I tell people I took Amtrak up to Boston and used a vacation day to spectate at the Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials and at the Boston Marathon, I get one response: you’re such a geek. Even when I counter with, I’ll be visiting a friend, I know folks who are running on Monday, they remain nonplussed. All this means to me is that I’m not spending enough time with runners.

As an avid spectator at the New York City Marathon, standing year after year on the same corner in Queens, next to the tissue people and across from the high school band that plays seven different versions of “Ironman”, I will swear up and down that my city’s marathon is the best in the world, no matter if you’re running or rooting. 

I have to admit: as I headed up to Boston, I harbored a germ of skepticism that the oldest marathon in the country could compare to mine.  Was the enthusiasm reported back to me about the race simply due to local pride, and pride in the cachet of having qualified for the exclusive event? I wondered perhaps if it wasn’t the self-congratulation of those involved that puffed it up. Certainly, and rightfully so, pride does have something to do with it. But was there anything beyond that? That’s what I was hoping to find out.

No need to leave you in suspense.  There’s way more beyond that.  The crux of the issue, really, is that the character and talent of the field blows away any other race.  It’s obvious to me now, but I hadn’t considered this before April 19th as I headed towards the Expo (which, by the way, kicks ass over New York’s Expo.). Everywhere I looked there were lithe, fit, beautiful runners. Runners who had hit the wall and powered through, who had recovered from injuries, who had run scores of races, who raced with clubs, teams, or spouses. Runners who could name more than two elites, who had the fancy gear and used it, regularly (I could tell by the salt residue on their Garmins). The focus on the sport, the level of conversation about it, was higher than at any race I’d ever previously attended (as spectator or athlete). And, these runners wore their dedication to the sport with ease, like an afterthought.

This set a welcoming, celebratory tone that made for exellent spectating. Event he other spectators were a step above. I stood next to parents who were clutching for their daughter in her third running; to track stars who had cheered for friends in the trials the day before, and now were cheering for other teammates. We were elated when Cheruiyot won his fourth set of laurels for the course; ecstatic when young Dire Tune passed Biktimirova in the final stretch. I did feel very much alone in my indignation of Lance Armstrong being given a tape to break when he crossed the finish (wtf?! He hasn’t won anything, why is he breaking a tape? Give us all a tape to break!).  I spotted two of my coaches as they ran towards the finish, and I was so proud to know, personally, people on the course.  I looked for Steve Runner and Matt Runner, my favorite podcasterdudes, but missed them.  I reluctantly dragged myself away from the fence to catch my 3:20 train home to New York.  Boston really does get the special ones: in my car alone there were two runners, in sweats, with their medals around their necks, sucking back water and chowing down on turkey sandwiches, looking for all the world as if they’d just popped into town for a jog with some friends, and were hoping to make it home in time for dinner. 

One day. One day.

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