Boston Marathon: Blowin’ in the Wind
Blustery, Cold Conditions Expected
Peter Gilmore often runs alongside the San Francisco Bay, where sharp winds constantly annoy him. The wind knocks him off balance, chills his ears and saps his energy by forcing him to fight extra resistance. It might be the worst part, Gilmore said, about living in northern California.
Now, on the brink of the 111th Boston Marathon, Gilmore’s windy runs look like a brilliant training strategy.
Participants anticipate the worst weather in the history of the world’s oldest continuous marathon when the race begins tomorrow at 10 a. m. Forecasters predict heavy rain, 20 mph winds and temperatures around 40 degrees. Race officials expect to treat many cases of hypothermia among the 23,000 participants. Elite runners, including Gilmore, expect a drastically altered race for the $ 100,000 first- place prize.
To sustain energy against the wind, the best runners will likely pack together for as long as the first 20 miles. Men’s defending champion Robert Cheruiyot — a Kenyan who set a men’s record last year in 2 hours 7 minutes 14 seconds — expects to run a few minutes slower than usual. Women’s defending champion Rita Jeptoo will try to become the eighth Kenyan woman to win in the last nine years.
“ When the weather is going to be like this, you just forget about aiming for a time and try to think about the strategy of the race,” said Gilmore, who finished seventh last year. “ I’m going to watch who’s ahead of me. I’m going to figure out who’s doing what. I’m not going to pay much attention to my watch.”
Gilmore has become something of a Boston Marathon specialist, finishing in the top 10 in each of the last two years. He’s an expert at running well on downhill stretches, and Boston has a lot of those. His compact build — 5 feet 9, 140 pounds — helps him stay low to the ground against the wind. Because the entire Boston course runs in one direction, Gilmore said he expects to run against strong winds for all 26.2 miles.
The top runner from the United States in this year’s field, Gilmore will shoulder the burden of America’s 23- year drought in the race. Last year, five American runners placed in the top 10, a breakthrough performance that has forced elite runners to consider Gilmore as a threat Monday.
“ I try not to think about all that,” Gilmore said. “ Right now, my goal is just to do better than I did last year. I want to improve my finishing place every time I’m here.”
American women also spend the days before each major U. S. marathon talking wistfully about a breakthrough performance. No American woman has won in Boston since 1985, but Deena Kastor, from California, has the ability to end that streak. Kastor earned a bronze medal at the 2004 Olympics and won the London Marathon in 2006. She entered the New York Marathon as the favorite to win in November — and then finished a disappointing sixth.
In Boston, she’ll face perhaps the greatest field in the race’s history. Top- ranked runners Jeptoo and Latvia’s Jelena Prokopcuka lead a group of 20 world- class women.
“ All the runners will stay together,” Prokopcuka said. “ With the wind in our face it will be very difficult. I like to run in the cold, but the rain is not so good for the muscles.”
Said Kastor: “ With this field it will be a battle every step of the way. . . . I feel like I can run an aggressive race right now. I’ve run in adverse conditions before.”