Goucher and Hall Claim Readiness for 113th B.A.A. Boston Marathon
Facing the media blitz as the favored American runners in the field, both Kara Goucher and Ryan Hall appeared relaxed and in good spirits, and both proclaimed they were ready to take up the challenge of leading USA distance runners in the tradition of Joan Benoit Samuelson and Bill Rodgers.
Posted Friday, 17 April, 2009
Ryan Hall shrugged off feeling any pressure as the top seed in the field; his 2:06:17 in London last year leads all comers for this one. No pressure; quite the opposite is true. Hall looks at Boston as an opportunity to add to the traditions of USA distance running, and does not feel he is shouldering the burden alone, as he pointed to Brian Sell in the chair next to him.
Hall said he drew inspiration from Bill Rodgers, who happens to be running this year for the first time in several years. “He was the man back then,” he said. “I don’t feel I am running in his footsteps—he is Bill Rodgers--but I feel I am running my own race, and look forward to our getting back to the top with that kind of tradition,” he continued.
Naively asked by several people if he really thought he could win, Hall coolly stated, “I have never lined up on the start line of a race without believing I could win.”
Ryan Hall is the real deal. He is confident, but not cocky. He is prepared and feels his training has gone exceptionally well. He is ready to run.
Why Boston for Hall? He is familiar with Boston and came to the 2008 race to scout it out and to watch Running USA teammate Deena Kastor run and win the US Women’s Olympic Trials Marathon. After watching her victory in Boston on Sunday of Marathon Weekend, he rode in the lead press truck to watch the 2008 race on Monday. And he got a really good feel for the excitement and tradition surrounding the world’s oldest annual marathon.
“Following that weekend I knew I had to come and run here,” he said. “I am somewhat familiar with the city because my sister-in-law attends Harvard Medical School. The buzz and the energy were noticeable right from the moment I got off the plane last year with the posters and so on. This race is different,” he concluded, “And I am really excited to be here and run this year.”
Kara Goucher, who has been largely under wraps by Coach Alberto Salazar since arriving in Boston, seemed to revel in the media circus that surrounds the venerable classic. She has stated on numerous occasions that her goal is to win Boston.
“I am a little scared,” she stated. “Boston is bigger and more important than the Olympics for me,” she continued. “Everyone has been great since I got here, and it is amazing how educated and aware everyone is,” she determined.
Asked how she felt about being the favored American and about following in the footsteps of Joan Benoit Samuelson, Goucher replied that she is very proud to represent the USA. “And I have some small tattoos to prove it,” she said, pulling back her sleeve. I am not in Joan’s league; she is such an inspiration. But just to be able to e-mail her and talk to her is amazing for me,” she said.
Despite the “scared” statement, she seemed relaxed and confident. She enjoyed her easy exchange with the media and handled the pressing crowd around her with ease as she answered question after question. “After this press briefing I will be going back into seclusion,” she said half jokingly.
Legend Joan Benoit Samuelson urged her to run her own race, and was not surprised about Goucher’s comment about this being bigger than the Olympics for her. “She is running on home soil,” Samuelson said. Samuelson will soon be running the half marathon in Oklahoma. “It was my worst ever,” she said, “And I want to go back and do it right.” She added, “I have never dropped out of a race, but that is one maybe I should have. I just had to finish,” she said.
Bill Rodgers was nearby, and was talking enthusiastically about his favorite race. He talked about dropping out of his last marathon--Boston. “You can’t have your last marathon be a DNF,” he stated. “I don’t think this is my last one, but I do want to finish. I am not racing this one. I just want to get to the finish line,” he said with a smile. He has battled injuries and prostate cancer in recent years.
As for Hall and Goucher, Rodgers said he told them to, “Lie low in the first half and conserve energy.” “They have been training so hard, and I know they are well coached and ready,” said Boston Billy.
Samuelson has the fourth best time in Boston Marathon history with 2:22:43 (1983). Kim Jones is the only other American woman in the top 50 all time at 2:26:40 (39th). Bob Kempainen has the fastest American time ever with his 2:08:47, a seventh place finish in 1994; he is ranked 19th overall. Goucher’s Coach Alberto Salazar is close behind in second for the US with 2:08:52 (two seconds ahead of Dick Beardsley) in 1982, 20th all time. It is probable that these rankings will change by Monday afternoon, Patriot’s Day in Boston.
Goucher and Hall are favorites to place well in the annual trek form Hopkinton to Boston. They are not only favored to be the top American runners. For the first time in many years, American athletes have a very good chance to win.