We all knew coming in that this edition of the Boston Marathon was gonna be special. The emotions were running high and everyone felt it. Then, as if scripted (it sure wasn't) two athletes made a very special moment even more so by literaly re-writing history.
That's how long ago an American had won the Boston Marathon. Meb Keflezighi was 8 years old at the time.
It's not that an American had to win this year. Life rarely works out with such synchronicity. But you know there were many at the starting line who thought they had to give a little extra this year to try and make it happen. It certainly seemed that way at the beggining. Both Meb and Ryan Hall were looking very strong in a field dominated by African countries. (as expected. By now I think everyone can agree they have rightfuly staked their claim in the history of the sport) But it was Meb who kept going. ...and going, and going.
At first, I was worried. I had seen a similar scenario during the New York Marathon and Meb simply could not keep up. With every step, I kept thinking: "He's gonna be 39 in May. There is only so much he can do." But he eventually ended up in the lead all by himself and even a late surge by Wilson Chebet was not enough. Meb won. With a ton of guts.
But if we are gonna talk about guts, then we have to talk about Shalane Flanagan.
I have been struggling to find something to compare Shalane's performance at Boston. There was something eerily familiar about the way she raced that sparked some faint memory in my brain but I just couldn't put my finger on it. Then, hours after the race I was grocery shopping when it hit me. The last time I saw a performance like that from an American runner, it was a recording of an event that happened before I was even alive: Steve Prefontaine running at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
Like Shalane, Pre didn't win that one either. In fact he didn't even place and yet, many still talk about that race. Realizing a bit after the halfway point that he was not gonna be able to out-kick Lasse Viren from Finland at the end, he decided to outrun him from the outset by running the race of his life. Sadly, he fell just a bit short; running out of gas, and losing a podium finish at the very end. But that was the whole point. He didn't race for an Olympic Medal. He raced to win. That's what I saw in Shalane last Monday.
From the start, she claimed the race as hers, stubbornly refusing to relinquish the lead. Even if she fell a bit behind when taking something to drink, she would immediately join the lead group and get in front. It was clear from the start, that if this incredibly talented field of women was going to have a chance at taking this away from her, it was going to take a downright historic effort. And in the end that's exactly what happened. Shalane finished with not only a personal best time, but with a performance that would have won her the race in any other year except three and yet she finished seventh. That's why we race. We motivate each other directly and indirectly. Shalane's incredible race begat an even more impressive performance from the eventual winner, Rita Jeptoo that led to a new course record. In fact, the top three finishers came in under the old course record. That's how competitive the Women's Marathon was, and it was all thanks for Shalane Flanagan and her will to win one for Boston.
By the way was it just me, or all I could focus on during the race was Shalane's abs? I mean, wow, does she have a strong core! Quite the six pack. I have a 1 liter bottle myself so maybe that's why I noticed so much. Gotta get planking!