Thursday, April 24, 2008

Women's Olympic Marathon Trials

Joan Benoit Samuelson at mile 17

Deena Kastor in 2nd Place at mile 17

The race begins at mile 22

Deena cruises to victory in 2:29:35

2nd place-Magdalena Lewy-Boulet (2:30:19)

3rd Place- Blake Russell (2:32:40)

Finish Strong, Joanie!

One of my favorite parts of vacation was watching the Women's Olympic Marathon Trials on Sunday, the day before the Boston Marathon. Over 150 elite female marathoners competed for one of three coveted spots to represent the U.S. Olympic Team in Beijing this summer.

The race course started on Boylston Street and featured four loops before ending at the traditional Boston Marathon finish line in front of the Boston Public Library in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood. I had the opportunity to catch the runners at miles 17, 22, and near the finish line. It was very exciting to watch the women I've always read about in Runner's World magazine (the best in the world!). It was also incredibly inspiring to watch 50-year old marathon legend Joan Benoit Samuelson run her last competitive race. Joan coasted past many women almost half her age with an astonishing 2:49:08 (90th place), setting an American record for 50+.

The race favorite was definitely American record holder and 2004 Olympic bronze medalist, Deena Kastor. But Magdalena Lewly Boulet set a daring pace and led the race until mile 23. Up until that point, Deena was almost 2 minutes back, and I was starting to worry that she wouldn't be able to make up the time. But when the two passed us again at mile 22, they were neck-and-neck, and Deena looked very strong and easily cruised to victory in 2:29:35. Second was Magdalena (2:30:19) and the the third spot went to Blake Russell (2:32:40). Interestingly, all three are California girls.

Funny story. When we were at the airport on Tuesday, we saw Deena and her husband in line at the ticket counter. As star-struck, mid-pack runners, we staked out a spot just outside the metal detector lines and watched her come through. Most entertaining was that she had her race trophy casually stuffed into a plastic bag. We then followed her into a gift shop, where we watched her buy two Dasani waters. Obviously, we were very inconspicuous as we stalked her throughout the airport. But just in case you wanted to know, Deena drinks Dasani water. Inquiring minds can thank my stealth reporting skills.

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