|Grete Waitz by Leo Kulinski, Jr. |
In 1897, John "JJ" McDermott won the first Boston Marathon with a time of 2:55:10 !! It was a small field, 15 runners. What a difference a century makes! This year we hosted about 27,000 runners from all over the world. As you might expect, the BAA website has improved markedly over the past decade. Today I'm digging into the results database, it's impressive. For example, I searched on runners with Kenyan citizenship (including those not living in Kenya), elite and otherwise, and found 20 runners. There were 33 runners from the Netherlands (including two who identified themselves as MDs - showoffs).
Yesterday's race was really fast (at least for the elite runners). Clear and dry, a brisk tailwind (from the West at 20 mph), temperatures in the 50s, and dewpoints of 25 F (that's an RH of 33%), the conditions were about as good as they get - at least based on the results. In the mens race, Geoffrey Muttai of Kenya ran a 2:03:02 which is the fastest recorded marathon time so far. However, there are criteria for race eligibility for an official world record. A century ago, the men's world record was around 2:40 - and today the record is 2:03:59 (Berlin 2008) - held by Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia.
In the women's race, Caroline Kilel (Kenya) edged out Desiree Davila (USA) by two seconds with a time of 2:22:36. Clearly the women were having a harder time this year with these "ideal" conditions - the women's world record is just over ten years old (Paula Radcliff, MBE - 2:15:25, London, April 13, 2001). In 1983, Joanie Benoit ran a 2:22:43 and set a course record. In 2002, Margaret Okayo (Kenya) set the women's course record with a 2:20:43. The first sub-3 hour women's world record occurred in 1971 (Elizabeth Bonner, 2:55:22, NY Marathon). Since 1971, the women have shaved almost 40 minutes of the record. The men have only gained 5 minutes. - wimps :)
Joanie Benoit Samuelson (50- 54) ran a 2:51:29. Christine B. Kennedy (55-59) ran a 2:56:17. Come on guys! - get a move on, you know who you are. :)
How "ideal" were the conditions yesterday? The Boston Marathon is a tricky race. Disaster lurks for the unwary. Boston is a windy city. In April, the sea wind is freezing - the land wind can be anything from Arctic to Tropical - unlike the autumn marathons, with their somewhat more predictable weather, coastal New England spring weather is highly variable due to cold ocean temperatures and dips in the jet stream. Some of our biggest snow storms have happened in early April. Here's a little snapshot of today's date from the NWS - TODAY MAXIMUM 48, Record: 95 F 1976 ; MINIMUM 41 , Record: 16 F 1875; AVERAGE 45 . Yuk!! So much for averages!
So, how did the top racers do it yesterday? Well, in short, they flew. Detailed video analysis shows that the men's winner took a single bound in Hopkinton and his took his first footfall at the finish line. The Kenyans, in case you don't know, train for Boston in a zero gravity chamber, or run down Mt. Kilimanjaro.