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Posts Tagged ‘Kara Goucher’

The leaders in the women's race, coming off Mile 5 along Memorial Drive.

For some reason, I didn’t get any photos of the men’s race. My friend @tejasrunnergirl took a fantastic one of their butts, which you can view here (along with her fantastic blog report of being my primary support crew at the Houston Half-Marathon.) Do click through and observe the wondrous spectacle that is the rear view of male marathoners.

The women, turning into their first out and back along Waugh Drive, about a quarter mile short of Mile 7.

The women pulling away from Mile 13 along Memorial Drive, you can pick out Kara and Janet Cherobon-Bawcom (5th place finisher)

Desiree Davila, Shalane Flanagan, and Kara Goucher crank into Mile 22 along Memorial Drive

Deena Kastor, heading up Waugh Drive with about 3.5 miles to go. She would finish 6th.

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The speed these women and men throw down is inconceivable to me. Intellectually, I understand the numerics behind a 4:55 or 5:33 pace, but I have absolutely no physical way to ever know what that feels like: how fast my legs would have to switch places, how brief a period my feet would touch the ground, how the wind would ruffle my hair, how hard my heart would beat.

For most of the competitors in the field at the Olympic marathon trials, getting to the trials will be the peak of their running career—no small feat, with “A” qualifying standards at 2:19 for men and 2:39 for women, times most humans take to run half the distance. Consider the fact that probably 95% of the qualifiers hold down full-time jobs while training for the trials, and it’s no wonder I saw so many runners on Memorial Drive (who clearly had no chance of winning) wearing some sort of smile on their faces, even up until Mile 23. Just getting to the game is the fulfillment of the dream. The equivalent for a runner like me is qualifying for the Boston Marathon enough under the required time that I actually came away with a bib during registration.

But there’s that top 5% of runners, the professional elite, who might even take it for granted that they are going to the trials. Men like Ryan, Meb, Dathan, Jason and Brett; women like Kara, Shalane, Desi, Deena, Tera and Magda—the prize in their eyes isn’t a bib for the trials, but a spot on the United States’ Olympic marathon team. That’s not to say the other 95% doesn’t hope for and train for a daring and stunning performance that will earn them a spot on the team as well. No doubt, many of them made tremendous sacrifices on the slight chance that January 14, 2012 would be their miracle day.

When we watch the Olympic trials, we are observing a rarified talent unleashed across a range of ambitions, and that is what makes the race so emotional, so thrilling, and so unforgettable.

The beauty of the circuit course is that as fans, the athletes could pass us as often as eight times. We not only get to monitor the progression of the battle between the elites with enough frequency to really feel the drama, but we also get to know the pack runners. Normally I give chicks who race in skirts a hard time, but at the trials, I gave the woman in the hot pink skirt with ruffles and a matching hair ribbon props—she dressed up for her debut on the national stage, and damn if I didn’t cheer for her each time she zipped by me.  Then there were the Storage twins, and the woman whose last name was Sunshine—you know I cheered my guts out for her, even though I was a little covetous of her name. And the men? Well, I admit that I was admiring their gorgeousness right along with their speed. Fernando Cabada? Hel-lo! And how awesome was it to see my old favorite Andrew Carlson up there in the mix of the top 10? It was very awesome. My heart gave a twinge each time Stephan Shay, who was racing the trials in his brother Ryan’s memory, sped by.

I knew who I wanted to come in first: Ryan Hall and Desiree Davila. Even though they both had the top qualifying times in their divisions, I still felt like they each had something to prove to the world—Ryan because he is self-coached, and Desi because she has toiled away in the shadows of Kara and Shalane for so long. (It was a terrible flashback to the natural laws that goverened my high school when the gorgeous blonde won the day over the girl-next-door brunette in this marathon). Ultimately, the men’s and the women’s races were very similar, in that the runner who led for the majority of the race came in second because they were overtaken in the last mile or so by the eventual champion. Even as I was watching these pros fiercely compete with each other, I knew that they have a deep respect for each other, and that many of them are friends and teammates. This is a beautiful thing, and is a way of relating with other humans that I greatly admire.

Later, after @tejasrunnergirl and I had cheered and tweeted from just past Miles 5/13/21 and Miles 7/15/23, we watched the televised coverage of the race. Even though I knew the outcome, I could not help myself from shouting out loud for Dathan to reel in Abdi and earn back the third place on the team, and for Desi to crank it up and overtake Shalane in the final half mile to win instead of place. I got all choked up when I saw the men’s leaders begin to overtake the trailing women racers, because these women were cheering Ryan, Meb, Abdi and Dathan. And also: imagine what a twisted pleasure it would be to say, afterwards, “Oh yeah, I was totally lapped by Ryan Hall!” Watching Ritz, the fourth men’s finisher, collapse into tears once he crossed the finish line was nearly too much to bear; I felt squirmy and bereft, his private grief was painfully honest. How does Amy Hastings reconcile the bitter disappointment of fourth place after leading several miles—will she be able to ever stop replaying the vision of Shalane, Desi and Kara hugging triumphantly, draped in American flags right in front of her eyes, as she trundled across the finish line in fourth place?

I’ve explained the Olympic marathon trials to my non-running-fan friends as “the SuperBowl of running.” But I’m not sure that’s adequate. The SuperBowl is every year. Football fans get to see their teams play a gameon TV every week throughout the entire 17-week long season. There are bragging rights, money, and Hall of Fame potential at stake—but nothing as theatrical and grand as representing your country in a field of competition that convenes once every four years.

As fans of the marathon, and as fans of individual distance racers, we get to see our favorite athletes unleash their training at most twice a year in the marathon, more only if they also compete in cross country, track, or shorter distances on the roads. More often than not, those races are not on TV. And the opportunities we have to see the best our nation has to offer compete directly against each other? Rarer still. I’m not complaining, I’m trying to explain to you just how unique, dramatic and inspiring the Olympic marathon trials are. I fear my words are not adequate.

My imagination is sparked by these men and women. I am grateful for the way they so thoroughly exploit their God-given talents. Being a fan of the sport has done nothing but enhance both my enjoyment of and my performances within it.

To Meb, Ryan, Abdi, Shalane, Desi and Kara: congratulations! I cannot wait to watch you take on the best of what the rest of the world has to offer in London this August. I’ve already raced those streets—now it’s your turn!

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It’s my birthday week on the blog, which means I’m going to post every day, Sunday through Saturday. This is the first post of the week. My actual birthday is Friday.

This morning I woke up when most of the other people who were up at that hour were stumbling to bed: 5:30 AM on a Sunday is the hour of golfers, runners (racers or people running long in July and August), and people who party on Red Bull.

I was heading in to Central Park to spectate the NYC Half-Marathon since the elite field was superb, and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to catch such talent doing that thing they do best, live and in the flesh. The subway service changes conspired to get me there late, and the NYRR was very strict about who had access to the starting line; since I didn’t have a racer’s wristband I wasn’t granted entry. So I just took entry: I was the lady in mauve corduroys and a black puffy coat clambering up the stone wall and hopping the wire fence at 96th Street around 7:15 AM. But soon enough I met up with @ericasara and @FitChickNYC. I’d never met Fit Chick before, so it was a treat to put a name and face with the Twitter handle. While we were waiting for the race to start I snapped this picture with my Blackberry, it’s the area where the elites were hopping around and the lead vehicle was gearing up. There was a Very Serious Vibe going on, with lots of NYRR people barking orders. I love this behind-the-scenes crap.

It was impossible to take pictures or even really pick the elites out at the start, they were all smushed together and just two feet away from us. Bear with me as I add all the crappy Blackberry photos I took today to this blog post. After some light debate about what is an appropriate cheer for runners at Mile 0.01 of a half-marathon (surely “looking strong” isn’t right), we strolled across the lower half of the reservoir to pick up the elites at West Drive and 87th Street, except we missed them by about 2 minutes. I immediately turned around and headed back to the East Drive to try and spot them at Mile 6.5ish. I had some great memories of watching the Men’s Olympic Marathon Trials in 2007; I crossed back and forth nearly eight times during that circuit course race. The trials were right before I started my blog so I never wrote about it, but that is one of the specific moments I point to when I explain how I first understood the excitement and drama of the marathon.

When I saw the men come by this time, I was disappointed to see how far back Ryan, Meb and Abdi were. I missed Galen all together, but I did give a big shout for Jason. Then we all kicked the dirt for a while until the women showed up, and it was nice to see Kara tight in the lead pack. I was curious how the rest of the race would play out, and tried to keep up on Twitter as I

zoomed downtown in a yellow cab to catch the last 200 meters of the race at Franklin Street and the West Side Highway.$26 later, I arrived just in time to hop up on a concrete barrier to cheer as Mo Farah and Gebre Gebremariam sprinted by in a battle to the finish. And Galen! Mo took the win from Geb in the last meters, it was very exciting, and Galen was a solid third place. What a tickle, this track star placing in this world-class half-marathon ahead of his distance running compatriots. Later I learned that he ran a time which qualifies him for the Olympic Marathon Trials; wonder if he’ll go for it at this distance or if he’ll stick with his distance track events.

In an eerie echo of Boston 2009 (when Americans took third place in the men’s and women’s races), Kara finished third place, behind Caroline Rotich and Edna Kiplagat. This time though she didn’t look nearly as destroyed as she looked at the finish in Boston. Her finish was 2:06 off her PR (1:06:57) and 34 seconds off her time at Lisbon which was her tune-up before Boston in 2009. I am looking forward to cheering her on from my usual spot at the finish line in Copley Square next month; I still want to see her win a major marathon.

After the hullabaloo of the pros coming by, I stayed and cheered until I couldn’t stop my teeth from chattering anymore. I saw RJR, CB and EN come by, but I had to throw in the towel because I was chilled to the core. It took me two hours to warm up! No doubt it was a great day for racing but as a spectator, we had it rough. While I always like seeing the elites, and I was glad I was there to give a few of my friends a boost, I think I would have been just as happy watching the race on my laptop; I would have seen a more thorough story of how it all played out with the elites, at least.

All in all, once I’d defrosted, I realized it had been quite a day in the world of distance running, and in the world of TK’s running. As I watched the pack start to come across the finish line, I remembered the best part of cheering at races. I love the way it stirs up my own desire to race, and perform. I love that moment, when the excitement and expectation for a race ignites within me, and I turn my primary focus to training; I love when it takes over my life. By the time I’m done cheering at Boston, I should be ready to dive in to base building for my Fall marathon. Soon, it will be my turn to own the roads.

But for today, congratulations to all the racers who owned the streets of Manhattan and finished the NYC Half-Marathon today. I know RJR set a wicked PR, and Galen has perhaps given himself a taste of what another kind of racing could be like for him.

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The plan was to drive into Wilkes-Barre, PA to finally see Sex and the City 2 but alas I have waited too long and all the theaters are filled with Eclipse, which I suppose is some other sort of movie about sex and longing and fashion… So instead I am here, sitting at the kitchen table in Pocono Lake, PA, drinking my red wine and blogging & tweeting. Honestly, it’s not such a bad way to relax… Usually, Husband objects to this blog because it pulls my attention away from him. But today, he was in a good mood. While walking the dog earlier, I said to him, Remind me to wash my running clothes tonight otherwise I have nothing to wear for my long run tomorrow. He responded, “How funny would that be! Now there’s something to write about on your blog!” I wasn’t amused and bitterly responded, That’s not funny. He persisted, laughing his head off. Finally I broke down and said, If I ran naked, where would I put my gels? That being, by far, my biggest concern about running naked (Lauren Fleshman & Kara Goucher have no similar concerns)… Any Phish fans out there? I am not, but I definitely support this phan’s approach to his health quest. Do any of you ever run to a Phish song on your iPod?… By now you should all know how fond I am of my dog Matilda, and of my neighborhood Sunnyside. The two converged this week as Husband found out his grassroots organization has received funding from the city council to build a dog run in our neighborhood! Maybe this video helped… Soo I totally emailed this lad Ian, asking if he would ever want to run around Sunnyside. I hope he doesn’t think I’m some social outcast loser desperate for a friend. Many thanks to Joe over at Run Westchester for pointing out that my neighborhood was home to such a talented and diverse group of runners–Olympic medalists, even!… Last year I blogged a bit about Running from the Devil, a thrilling debut novel featuring a female ultrarunner who also thwarts Columbian druglords in her spare time. This year, I want to mention the second book in the series, Running Dark. This time, Emma must stop Somali pirates after a DNF during the Comrades Ultramarathon. And that’s Chapter 1… The author, Jamie Freveletti, is from Chicago but admits she loves running in NYC. Of course! Who doesn’t?… A heads up on some Fall books about running by runners: Long May You Run by Chris Cooper, which details the 200 top races, routes, workouts & lore all runners must experience; The Grace to Race is an inspirational memoir by the 80 year-old “Iron Nun” world-class triathlete; and the sequel to Once a Runner is coming out in paperback this Fall as well. It’s called Again to CarthageAnd lastly, I am excited but also nervous this book will disappoint. Kara Goucher sold her memoir to Simon & Schuster. No pub date announced yet, but this is the agent’s abstract:

World Champion 10,000-Meter Bronze Medalist and top U.S. marathoner Kara Goucher’s FIRST STEPS: An Olympian’s Guide to Miles, Marathons, Motherhood and More, a user-friendly running guide that helps women discover the gift of running by pairing personal accounts and stories from her career with detailed training instruction and advice. 

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Day 8 of the 30-day running streak went by without a hitch. Had one of those magical runs home where I could feel my pigtails flying behind me, where I felt like I owned the streets, where I felt like the most beautiful creature on two legs even though surely I must have looked bouncy and ungainly… This woman ran 27 consecutive marathons (mostly by herself, as necessitated by her endeavor). I just don’t understand what the deal is with that massive cart… What would bum you out more if you were running a marathon: a bomb scare or rain that made your shoes & socks sodden?… This hottie French chef trained for the LA Marathon in just 8 days. Why he and everyone else is acting like it’s such a great and amazing thing is beyond me. What a terrible example he’s setting for people; folks who don’t know any better could get seriously injured! And, notice the braces he’s wearing on his knees, and his finishing time. Pbblt… My Green Mountain Relay teammate TW emailed me about this woman, Lisa Smith-Batchen, a few weeks ago. Her goal is to run 50 miles in each of the 50 states. I appreciated his affirming comments, “She is very friendly, like any other extraordinary runners.” Since I think pretty much all runners are extraordinary people, that must mean we all are very friendly… If you are looking for inspiration, or for just a little bit more of my blogging self, head on over to MsV’s blog, Gymnotes, and check out her “Women on the Rise” post and our comments in response to the questions she challenged us to. I for one am touched and honored to be among such fine company… I love these 9 Great Sounds of New York City, courtesy of MUG. My favorites? Morning, Whispering, and Bob. What are yours? What would you add to this list if you could make it 10 Great Sounds? I’d add the rattle of the N train as it heads into Queensboro Plaza (as I’m running on my bridge, of course)… I already told you about Sunday’s trail run, but I didn’t tell you what happened to BG afterwards… My relay team has finally been wrapped up, with all 12 runners committed (there’s a blood oath involved), happy  hours scheduled, and race legs assigned. We’ve got a handful of bloggers, tweeters and one podcaster. But we still can’t compete in the All-Blogger category. Damn? Nah… Some of my long-term readers may recall my post about the various levels of Skinny Jeans. Well, Claire takes it one step further with motivation being “J+B.” Funny (& true) stuff!.. I was going to head to the Poconos the weekend of June 11th, but now I think I need to stay in town and spectate at the New York Mini–and take some pictures of two of my favorite marathoners, Kara & Paula! Wow!

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Ellipses…

I am grateful for YOU my dear readers, commenters and lurkers alike… How cool is it that Meb Keflezighi will be starring in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade tomorrow? Super fucking cool! (Suck it, Football!)… Followers of pro racing will love this fan’s condensation of the New York City Marathon elite field over the past few years. My friend TS is the same kind of emotional fan I am, do check it out… I added a few links to my blogroll this week. The first is a fledgling social networking site dedicated to NY Metro Area runners. If you’re in this area, do click over and register (and invite me to be a friend)… The second is RJR’s (aka Cowboy Hazel) new blog To Badwater. That’s right, my Green Mountain Relay teammate and newly-minted member of the sub-3-hour-marathon club (Philly), has his sights set on the Badwater Ultramarathon, and he’s agreed to let me crew! Suh-weet, we better start hydrating now… As for the third, I’ve only met her once in person, but she already has my admiration. ES is a super-talented endurance athlete, a generous coach and fundraiser for Team in Training, and now, once again, a blogger… A very strange thread on Twitter got my boasting up and somehow I am now running the Emerald Nuts Midnight Run on December 31 in Central Park in this costume… JG from Run Westchester sent me this link a few days ago. Ah, Kara. Everything she says makes perfect sense to me (except for the part about running 115 miles a week. That I know I can’t do.), but what’s most appealing to me is the flexibility she gives herself on her workouts. If she has a certain mileage or speed session scheduled for that day but her body’s not feeling it, she will shift things around in her week so she can tackle the harder stuff when she’s feeling fresher. I’ll call that “Intelligent Obstinance.”

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Some Choice Words

Intentions. I intended to watch the streaming video of Kara’s half-marathon in Chicago in July. I meant to hop online to watch the World Championship events, including the women’s marathon, this August. But I didn’t, and I never got around to blogging about the coverage; and the weekends the elites came to town (for the Healthy Kidney 5k and the Nike NYC Half-Marathon) I of course had immutable plans to be away. Not only was I disappointed at missing out on motivational spectating, but I was disappointed in myself–what kind of fan was I? Add to that the strange mix of feeling snookered and crushed when I learned that Twitter’s @KaraGoucher was an imposter, and it’s been a pretty dry season for me as far as keeping up with the elites. 

Remedy. Thanks to EN and LW I am feeling a little bit more plugged into the elite loop again–they both forwarded the Facebook notification that Kara would be giving a Q+A then going for a run with everyone at tonight’s Niketown workout. For various reasons I couldn’t stay for the run part, but there was no way I was missing the Q+A. I needed to hear what she had to say–lately I have been sliding down that slippery slope of discouragement and I knew Kara would help me stop that nonsense. In fact, I was prepared to ask her just that–“how do you train through and past discouraging setbacks”–if given the chance. 

Connection. Ultimately it didn’t matter that I was unable to ask her, since her responses to Kara Goucher at Niketown 9-10-09some of the other questions were so thoughtful and heartfelt that I heard what I’d come to hear. When asked to describe the 24 hours before and the 24 hours after a marathon, she literally got choked up and shed a tear recalling the emotions. The night before, she writes a letter to her family talking about the journey of her training; the day after she says she is very emotional as she absorbs and processes what she’s just accomplished, and that when she’s done with a marathon, she has new respect for her body and her self. I was right there with her, choked up and recalling every race I finished in tears, or gulping down the lump in my throat (and not because of a poor time). I remembered that overwhelming feeling and knew with a shiver I wanted to feel that again–that is why I race, because it’s an opportunity to bathe myself in that rare pool of emotional intensity. 

Kara Goucher at Niketown 9-10-09Baptism. Kara Goucher, I am renaming you Kara Guru because what you said about how you push through the wall was so true. You said, “It’s just running, you can do it. Your training has proven that your body can do it even though you may not PR but you can finish.” I struggle with that. The idea of training for months, putting myself at risk for injury, only to go out there on race day and flop out, run a third-rate time (for me) is completely off-putting. But Kara, you didn’t concede that you would ever settle for third-rate, rather you demonstrated an attitude to get through a less-than-optimal performance. That was helpful, truly. 

Repetitions. It’s exactly 30 days until my goal race, the Baltimore Half-Marathon, which I am hoping to run in Dan’s honor, wearing my Team Fox singlet. I am bagging the Queens Half (on September 20th, which I was going to run as a litmus test for Baltimore), because I haven’t been able to do any long runs as part of my recovery from my re-injury. I’m allowed to run the Fifth Avenue Mile, but not race it. (Really now, what’s the FUCKING point then??) I can’t believe I’m in this place again, where I’m a month from my race and I’m injured and unable to complete training and thinking about dropping it. I can’t fucking believe it–and I feel like a complete jackass, a weakling, and the kind of fool who pays the price not once but twice. Oh, self- recriminating is a pretty constant activity for me these days (wish it burned more calories). TK, you simply can’t run anymore without also conditioning your core, and strengthening the rest of your body. Accept it, integrate it, and lay off the goddamn red wine. 

Perseverance. In the meantime, I am keeping Kara’ words in mind, and having faith that when I finally do cross a finish line after 13.1 or 26.2 miles, the emotional wallop will be amplified by the discouragement through which I’ve trained. Right?

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I caught this bead on Twitter (thanks @slilley  @FloTrack  @runblogrun @universalsports) a couple of days ago, that Kara Goucher is putting her baby-making plans on hold to run the IAAF World Championships Marathon in Berlin this August, but I’ve been too busy working, socializing and sleeping to really say anything about it. Then, leftcoaster put up a “whoo-hoo KG’s back!’ comment on my last Kara post, and I knew what I wanted to say. Any runner who races, no matter their level of talent, can understand KG’s need for a “Boston do-over.” Hindsight is 20/20, but it can also be a bugaboo until we’ve had the chance to correct. In this interview with Universal Sports, she presents her plans for the rest of the year. A few notable things: Kara’s coming to New York to compete in the Reebok Grand Prix on May 30th (I already have my tickets; JPM and I are going together, for a reprise of our peanut gallery act from the Garden); and once again Kara reveals what an amazing husband she’s got. I’m not opposed to a little love story in the middle of my sports page.

Bridge runners take note: Supermarket billionaire John Catsimatidis has agreed to pony up whatever funds are necessary to give my Queensboro Bridge a proper fireworks display for  its 100th Anniversary later this month. Festivities kick off the week of May 31st. Thank you JC! (And thanks Husband for clipping the article from the New York Daily News for me.)

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Ryan Hall tweeted early this morning that he was at the airport heading home. I wonder what Kara would have told us over Twitter, if she had such a way to connect with her fans.  Flotrack tweeted earlier in the day, “Sports Illustrated reporting Kara Goucher and coach Alberto Salazar are attempting to add her to this weekend’s London Marathon.”

Screeech. What?! Quick, Google. Truly she’s not considering…Okayokayokay. She is NOT running London. Salazar talked her out of it. Well thank goodness he did!

So, my predictions were kinda crappy. Let’s see how I did.

Men’s Open Race (Prediction/Actual)

  1. Robert Cheruiyot  / Deriba Merga
  2. Ryan Hall / Daniel Rono
  3. Deriba Merga / Ryan Hall

Could have been worse, actually. Two of my top three picks actually finished in the top three, though four-time champ Cheruiyot was a DNF due to back pain. Rono wasn’t even on my radar, but he is now.

Women’s Open Race (Prediction/Actual)

  1. Kara Goucher / Salina Kosgei
  2. Dire Tune / Dire Tune
  3. Bezunesh Bekele / Kara Goucher

I suppose I’m a little psyched I was on the nose with Tune, but no need to go into how I’d have rather been right about Kara. Bekele came in fourth, so while she didn’t make the podium she was a better call than Cheruiyot! Salina Kosgei had her day on April 20th, for her first World Marathon Majors Win (like Merga).

Flotrack was the first site with video up, as I trolled the web before I had to jump on the Amtrak regional back to New York yesterday evening.  JG came to watch what few clips were up then, and we both felt kind of yucky, gaping at Kara as she struggled to keep the tears at bay for the press, standing there in her racing bikini, with Adam hovering protectively at her side.  In this video, the sports reporter, Steve Burton, actually calls her “Sara Goucher.” It only goes to show what a class act Kara is that all she did was give one little chuckle and a private smile, rather than ream the dumbass out. And the video of her all alone on the dais answering questions from an insensitive press corps, as she choked back tears, was heartbreaking. (You can see Adam’s profile to the left of the stage, ready to go to her if she needs him.) In this video, Kara’s answering a Q&A with the same guy who interviewed her and Bernard at New York Running Co. earlier this year. This time, the single piece of advice she gave the crowd was to “have patience,” and to not worry about a timeline when working towards your goals. “You have forever,” she said. Was she speaking directly to me? Most certainly not, but once again Kara provides me with the inspiration I need.

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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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