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Marathon Notebook: Meyer seeking end game

South African hopes coaching, training change do trick

By Barbara Huebner, Globe Staff, Globe Correspondent, 4/14/2000

ost marathoners, male or female, would be overjoyed to run one race in 2 hours and 27 minutes, let alone three. But to Elana Meyer, it was a sign of trouble.

''I was feeling a bit stagnated,'' said Meyer, whose last three times were all within three seconds of each other (1998 Chicago 2:27:20, third; 1999 London 2:27:18, fifth; 1999 Chicago 2:27:17, third). ''I was feeling maybe a change in preparing for the marathon would be good.''

So Meyer, who still lives and trains in her native South Africa, in December made the difficult decision to leave her coach of 15 years, Pieter Labuschagne, and hook up with Alan Storey. While Labuschagne's specialty is the shorter distances, Storey has a solid background at 26.2 miles, having coached former London Marathon champion Hugh Jones in addition to Sonia O'Sullivan.

''For me, it was good to look at the marathon slightly differently,'' said Meyer, who has been in love with the distance since she ran her first - and, at 2:25:15, her fastest - here in 1994. ''I've been struggling toward the end.''

In her three previous appearances at Boston, Meyer, now 33, has hung onto the leaders a little longer each time. In 1994, she fell back at 19 miles; in 1995, at 23; in 1997, at 24. With some changes in her training, particularly in interval sessions (alternating fast and slow running to increase aerobic capacity), Meyer hopes to change that trend and capitalize in the late miles on her formidable speed: in 1992, Meyer was the silver medalist at the 1992 Olympics at 10,000 meters and has run the world's fastest half marathon in 1:06:44.

''The marathon for me is still an unaccomplished distance,'' she said, despite coming into the race with the second-fastest time in the field, behind only three-time defending champion Fatuma Roba. ''I'm sure my best marathon is still to come.''

As for her Meyer's training regime, Monday will help tell the tale. ''That's the final test,'' she said. ''Does it help me run a better marathon?''

Franziska Rochat-Moser, who established a Swiss national record when she finished second here last year in 2:25:51, has pulled out of Monday's race, citing a hip injury.

Pippig to comment and ramble

Uta Pippig, the three-time Boston winner (1994-96), will be in town to do commentary for Channel 4 again this year, then stay in Concord for two weeks before running the James Joyce Ramble 10K on April 30 in Dedham, her first race back after a two-year ban for a positive drug test. The ban expires April 23. ''It's life; you have to cope with it,'' said Pippig of the ban's timing, which forces her out of a second Boston Marathon.

Her decision to nonetheless reemerge at a Boston-area race, she said, was a natural one. ''I feel very protected there,'' she said. ''I have a lot of people who supported me during the whole time.'' As for the Ramble, in which costumed actors read from Joyce's works along the course, Pippig vowed that she's ready. ''I read `Dubliners''' she said. ''I just hope people don't ask me questions about it.''

L Street runners to be 250 strong

Twenty years ago, someone running past the L Street Bathhouse in South Boston was an oddity.

Today, that runner is likely to be a member of the L Street Running Club, which will be represented by 250 members in Monday's marathon.

Last night, the group held its annual pep rally, with guest speakers Dave McGillivray, the Boston Marathon's technical director, and Ch. 56 weatherman Mike Wankum, a runner and club favorite.

Sunday, the club will have its annual Mass in memory of Jim Kane, its spiritual founder, at 10 a.m. at BC High.

Sports drinks favored over water

According to Runner's World magazine, two out of every 10 runners do not realize it is possible to drink too much water, leading to hyponatremia, a rare condition that occurs when the concentration of sodium in the blood drops to a potentially life-threatening level due to drinking fluids that do not contain sodium.

Studies have shown that sports drinks, like Gatorade, do a better job than water of replacing the sodium lost during intense exercises like marathons and can help prevent the development of hyponatremia.

''The best and easiest way to hydrate properly during a marathon is to drink a sports drink like Gatorade that contains the electrolytes sodium and potassium,'' said Dr. Julie Burns, a nutrition consultant for Chicago professional sports teams and events and for Northwestern University's varsity athletic teams. ''However, runners, especially women and beginning marathoners, should consider not only the amount of fluid, but also the type of fluid they drink during endurance exercise.''

Sports Medicine conference Sunday

The Massachusetts Govenor's Committee on Physical Fitness and Sports (MAGCPFS) and the Sports Medicine Division of Children's Hospital will host the Millennium Marathon Sports Medicine Conference at the Hynes Convention Center on Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Leading the conference will be experts in the fields of sports medicine, physical therapy, orthopedics, and other related areas.

The topics discussed will include the role of footwear in preventing injuries, information specifically related to the female runner, strength training for runners, preventing and treating knee and back problems and a comparison of the triathlon and marathon athlete.

''Most runners don't think of strength training to be as important to their routine as other factors such as stretching or proper nutrition,'' said Dr. Lyle Micheli, director of the Sports Medicine Division at Children's Hospital and chairperson of the MAGCPFS.

Anyone interested in attending should contact Brian Fitzgerald, assistant clerk for the MAGCPFS at 617-355-6534.

Globe correspondent Andrew Tripaldi and Marvin Pave and Bill Griffith of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.

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