Bos­ton Marathon: Blowin’ in the Wind

Blus­tery, Cold Con­di­tions Ex­pected

The Washington Post Sunday - - On The Air Sunday Morning - By Eli Saslow

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.”

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