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Barnburner in Boston

Date: 
01/25/2018 - 16:22

By Carolyn Mather
On Monday April 16, 2018 the most stellar group of American distance runners will toe the line with the hope that an American woman will win Boston for the first time since Lisa Weidenbach won in 1985. 2016 Olympian at 10,000 and 5,000 meters, Molly Huddle, will be joined by 2016 Olympic marathoners Shalane Flanagan and Des Linden, Jordan Hasay, Sara Hall, Serena Burla and American record holder and Olympic bronze medalist Deena Kastor. To add to the excitement, 2017 champion Edna Kiplagat plans to defend her title. I am certain there will also be a stellar international field but I am going to focus on the American women in this article.

Although Deena Kastor holds the American record (both open and masters), I do not figure her to be in the mix in the open field, but she is definitely the favorite for the masters title. Knowing Deena, I am certain she will mix it up with the open women especially if they take the first 20 miles as slowly as they did in New York this past fall.

But I do not believe that strategy will be in the cards as the leading ladies all want the Boston title. I suspect they will be pushing the pace from the start. I will go through each of the contenders and hope it will add to your excitement for the race.

Shalane Flanagan (2:21:14 PR)won her first marathon major at the TCS New York City Marathon in November by patiently staying in the large and rather slow lead pack until after 20 miles. She closed the race with miles of 5:11, 5:08 and 5:04. I have never witnessed such strength in the last 5K of a marathon. She said in the pre-race interviews that if she won the race she would retire at the top of her game. Yet the win incentivized her (as I am sure did the offer from John Hancock and the BAA) and she has decided to take on Boston one more time. Shalane has run the Boston Marathon three times and finished fourth in 2013, fifth in 2014, and ninth in 2015. She had to sit out last year with a back injury but the down time helped her training for New York. As a Marblehead, MA, native, she has previously been very vocal about winning the historic race in her home state. Will she be able to finally the Boston crown she so obviously desires?

Molly Huddle (2:28:13 PR) bested Shalane's 10,000 American record at the 2016 Rio Olympics and finished third at her marathon debut in NYC in 2016. She has decided to move her concentration to the marathon and she has 25 national championship titles in her resume including several American records. Ray Treacy has been her long time coach and he knows how to coach a marathoner. Molly is a take no prisoners runner and time will tell if she can translate her natural speed to the marathon distance.

Desiree Linden is (2:22:38 PR) a two-time Olympian who had been in a bit of a slump since her performance in Rio. She has spent 2017 concentrating on shorter distances. Keith and Kevin Hanson have a formidable training cycle for Des and she is back and ready to get it done. She has finished a close second in Boston and always runs well in the marathon. The Hansons always manage to get the best out of their runners and Des is incredibly focused in her preparation.

Sara Hall ran a personal best (2:27:21) at the very windy Frankfurt Marathon in the fall then punctuated that finish with a national title at the Cal International Marathon five weeks later. With her husband Ryan Hall (2:04:58 in Boston 2011) as her coach, she has a coach intimately familiar with the course.

Kellyn Taylor (2:28:40 PR) was on track for a top five finish in NYC when she tied up, but still kept it together for an 8th place finish. Kellyn was one of my picks to make the Olympic team in 2016 and she managed a 6th place in the marathon trials and a 4th in the 10,000 trials. Kellyn is hungry and is due for a great race. Training in Flagstaff with Ben Rosario and Hoka One One makes her a formidable contender.

Serena Burla (2:26:35 PR) knows what a battle is as she is a cancer survivor and one fast lady. Serena continues to improve as she lies quietly under the radar. She has been working her way up the marathon ladder and has had great consistency.

Finally Jordan Hasay (2:20:57 PR) will be running her third marathon. Jordan has been a star since her middle school days and has competed in track and cross country for well over a decade at a national and international level. At age 25 she finally found her event as she debuted in the marathon at Boston in 2016 and finished 3rd female in 2:23:00 which was a huge American debut record. She followed this (becoming the second fastest American woman (and the fastest on American soil) with a third place finish in Chicago in 2:20:57. At age 26, Jordan has an open field ahead of her. She wants a win in Boston and she is one determined lady.

After the Chicago race, Shalane was among several U.S. athletes who were hesitant on extending congratulations to Jordan for her performance. Jordan runs for the Nike Oregon Project and is coached by Alberto Salazar, who remains under investigation by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency after former athletes and coaches alleged that Salazar pushed the boundaries on anti-doping rules. Shalane said: "As a fan of my own sport, it’s hard to have full excitement and faith when you don’t know all the facts yet. There’s still an investigation going on so it’s hard to truly and genuinely get excited about the performances that I’m watching. And I think it’s really important to consider who you associate with." Shalane refused to retract her statement in NYC according to world record holder and race analyst Paula Radcliffe.

Jordan was understandably concerned by these statements and told me that they could come and train with her for a week and see how she gets it done. Jordan has been doing this running thing for many years with success at every venue. She has worked hard and running and her family are her life. She has truly earned her way to the top and I believe that years and years of hard work yield success.

So although there may be more international competitors, I think the race will be among these outstanding American women. It will definitely be a race like none that has gone before. Stay tuned for my coverage of the 2018 Boston.

Carolyn Mather, R.N., PhD lives and runs in north Georgia and is a member of the Atlanta Track Club Elite. She can be reached at carolynmather@tds.net.

This article appeared in the February issue of Running Journal.

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