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Boston Marathon Course section


It's the local footnotes that keep tradition alive

By Dan Shaughnessy, Globe Staff, 04/18/00

How would we explain this event to someone who has never been to Boston on Patriots Day?

It's a Massachusetts-only holiday - a no-school day with mail delivery, stock trading, 11 a.m. major league baseball, and open liquor stores. But it is also a holy day of obligation for those who worship at the feet of Pheidippides, the Greek warrior who ran 26 miles from Marathon to Athens in 490 B.C., then dropped dead after announcing news of military victory.

There are mega-marathons in New York, Fukuoka, and every four years at the Summer Olympic Games, but ours is the biggest, best 26.2 of them all.

Boston 2000 yesterday marked the third century of Hopkinton-to-Copley Square. Kenyan Elijah Lagat beat Ethiopian Gezahenge Abera and Kenyan Moses Tanui down crowded Boylston Street to win the men's event. Minutes later, Lagat's countrywoman, Catherine Ndereba, pulled away from three-time defending champ Fatuma Roba to win the women's race. In the wheelchair competition, Hub favorite Jean Driscoll beat rival Louise Sauvage to win her eighth Boston, and Franz Nietlispach won the men's event for the fourth straight year.

The preceding paragraph, though full of facts, tells you little about the heart, soul, blood, and thunder of the Boston Marathon.

More than anything, Boston is about tradition. Look no further than the annual race coverage on these pages. The estimable John Powers today writes our lead story and becomes only the third reporter to do that job since 1932. The late Jerry Nason, who named Heartbreak Hill, covered the race from 1933-82 before passing the torch to Joe Concannon, who died two months ago. Writing the Marathon lead for the Globe is like representing the Eighth Congressional District (James Michael Curley to John F. Kennedy to Tip O'Neill) or playing left field for the Red Sox (Ted Williams to Carl Yastrzemski to Jim Rice).

Boston is about 92-year-old Johnny Kelley throwing out the first pitch at Fenway on Sunday, then serving as race marshal Monday. It's about Jock Semple, Tarzan Brown, the shores of Lake Cochituate, Clarence DeMar, the Wellesley College "tunnel of sound,'' Bill Rodgers, Tommy Leonard, Rosie Ruiz, Alberto Salazar, Uta Pippig, Joan Benoit Samuelson, Kathy Switzer, the Eliot Lounge, carbo loading, Mylar blankets, Bill Squires, beef stew, laurel wreaths, and Marshall Medoff.

Boston College student Ronald MacDonald won the race in 1898, back in the days before "splits'' and computer chips on shoes. Japanese runners won three times in the 1960s, but now the race is ruled by Kenyans, who first burst onto the international scene when Kip Keino and brethren dominated the distance events at the high-altitude Summer Olympics in 1968. Kenya's current Boston streak is 10, and more than a dozen Kenyan athletes have been made honorary citizens of Hopkinton.

The 104th edition was run on a bone-chilling day into a strong headwind. Noticing the temperature difference was Jack Fultz, who won the 100-degree "run for the hoses'' in 1976. He ran yesterday as player-coach of the 400-strong Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team.

Breaking tradition, photographers were not allowed in the medical tent, which seemed like a nice new idea. Who among us would want to be photographed receiving medical attention after a 26.2-mile race?

Carpet-bomb coverage was de rigueur. WBZ-TV (Channel 4) took over part of the second floor of the Boston Public Library, setting up a sophisticated spotters network just a few feet from the stacks of Arabic. The spotters network would have been handy 20 years ago when Rosie's place was first place because she sneaked onto the course for the final mile. Not to be outdone by Channel 4, Channel 5 set up digs at the Lenox Hotel, longtime home of Celtics coach Red Auerbach.

The men's race had a tinge of gamesmanship and poor sportsmanship. Lagat, Tanui, and Abera were three across when they turned onto Boylston, but there was some jostling along the way and Abera felt the two Kenyans were conspiring against him (maybe they're coached by Pat Riley). Sounding like too many Red Sox players we have known, he used this as an excuse for his second-place finish. Tanui scoffed at the accusation. The Marathon could use more of this deep feeling.

After watching a grueling 1-0 loss to the A's, Red Sox fans poured out of Fenway and ran toward Kenmore as the women's leaders came through. In a battle for second, Kyrgyzstan's Irina Bogacheva caught Roba at the wire and lunged across the finish line to take the silver by one or two molecules. The kick earned her an additional $17,500 in prize money.

Cheered on by shivering legions of supporters, thousands of runners followed the leaders to the finish line as the afternoon grew long. They were beef stew-worthy, every one.

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