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Boston Marathon Course section

Running with new ideas

Chs. 4, 5 explore marathon routes

By Bill Griffith, Globe Staff, 4/20/2003

Runners take their first steps out of Hopkinton on Patriots Day never knowing where the road of life ultimately will lead them. The immediate destination is Boston, but their hearts often go in different directions and touch lives all over the world. Channels 4 and 5 hope to tell us many of those runners' stories tomorrow when the stations devote almost all of their day's programming to coverage of the happening that is the Boston Marathon.

"We want to inform, entertain, and hopefully inspire some people," said Channel 5 executive producer Don Makson. "The first two hours of our broadcast [9-11 a.m.] are for people who aren't going to be at the front of the pack."

One of those stories is the amazing life of Cynthia Lucero, who died in last year's race from hyponatremia -- an overhydration condition. She was running for the Leukemia Society's Team in Training.

"What she accomplished in 28 years is amazing," said Makson. "Her dissertation was on the effects of marathon training on cancer patients and their families. She was running for the Leukemia Society because she wanted to help. This is a woman who, on the morning of 9/11, went to Logan Airport to help counsel people. Plus she was an organ donor. We'll talk with the woman who received her liver. If you have a heart, you have to wonder why she was taken." Lucero's brother-in-law, Jim Stirling, is running for the Leukemia Society this year and will wear the No. 15611 bib that Lucero wore last year. He and his late sister-in-law are among approximately 9,000 runners Rick and Lori Muhr have coached over the past seven years. Those runners have combined to raise more than $20 million for the Leukemia Society.

Channel 5 has been having fun promoting traffic reporter Jeff Larson as its $6 million man. Larson has run for Children's Hospital the past two years. There is a story behind his involvement, too.

Larson ran his first marathon matched up with Katherine Gabriele Lynch, the tiny woman (28 inches tall, 35 pounds) who captured Boston's heart when she walked her personal marathon of 26.2 feet at the starting line two years ago. Last year, Larson pushed Lynch, who worked as a motivational speaker and patient advocate at Children's, across the finish line.

It wasn't long thereafter that Lynch was the first person Larson called with the news that his wife was pregnant with their first child.

"My mom probably won't like reading that," he said, "but Katie was so excited because she knew how much we wanted a baby."

When Lynch died of a brain aneurysm last October, it left a void in the Larsons' lives -- enough of a void that they named their son Gabriel in her memory.

Over the winter, Channel 5 was looking for a different angle for its coverage and came across Evolution Sports Systems in Waltham, which makes the coaching, testing, and consulting services used by elite athletes available to, as Larson says, "normal schmoes like me."

Channel 5's Makson and co-producer Matt Smith were intrigued by the idea of what the high-tech training aids could do for Larson.

"It wasn't, `How can we make Jeff Larson a world-class athlete?' " said Larson. "We'd just had the baby, so I knew I couldn't do as much training as I did in the past. Instead, it was, `How can we help Jeff now that he has less time to run and sleep than he has in the past?' "

Still, expectations are there.

Last year, Larson could count on five good training days per week. This year, it's been three or four. "Plus, I haven't had as many races leading up to the marathon," he said. "My long runs have been fine. The difference is what ESS has been able to do. They did physical testing, nutritional analysis, strength assessment, and a psychological profile. Part of the tests were for my VO level to see how well I processed oxygen. It was low so they scheduled me to do my short runs at a faster pace."

Tomorrow will tell the tale. "I really think I could run a qualifying time if I had time to train and sleep," said Larson, an about-to-turn-40 runner who needs to cover the course in 3:20 to qualify.

He knows they haven't turned the mild-mannered Smartroute Systems general manager into a Marathon Machine.

"Ultimately, I'm doing this for Children's Hospital, and whatever attention I can bring to them," he said.

Inside the box

Last year, Channel 4 experimented with keeping a box on the screen for live race coverage during commercials. "We think we can do it even better this year," said news director Peter Brown. "We'll have live continuous coverage during commercials this year. The commercial will be in the upper right portion of the screen with the live race in the lower left." . . . Brown also has provided a Telestrator for analysts Kathrine Switzer and Toni Reavis to use in picking runners out of the pack . . . Frank Shorter, who in past years has been at the finish or in studio with Channel 4 anchor Bob Lobel, will be miked for the race and run with the back-of-the-packers in the early stages . . . Channel 4's Lisa Hughes, who ran the race last year, will be reporting from Wellesley College tomorrow.

A night at the races

The PBS "American Experience Series" tomorrow (Channel 2, 9 p.m.) tells the story of Seabiscuit, the famed racehorse who was rediscovered in Laura Hillenbrand's best-seller "Seabiscuit: An American Legend" and is the subject of a soon-to-be-released movie . . . NBC hired Bob Papa as blow-by-blow announcer for its boxing series that will run three consecutive Saturday afternoons beginning May 3 (a lead-in to the Kentucky Derby). Papa is the New York Giants announcer for WFAN radio and host of ESPN's "Friday Night Fights." He'll be joined by former junior middleweight champ Raul Marquez and host Jessi Losada, who will work the show both in English for NBC and Spanish on Telemundo . . . WWZN "inside guys" Anthony Pepe, Mike Winn, and Bill Dempsey made their on-air debuts as "The Diehards" Friday from 7-10 p.m. Pepe (from Canton) is the station's director of marketing, Winn (from Belmont) is the local sales manager, and Dempsey (from Norwell) is an account executive. So how did they convince GM Mike Kellogg to put them on the air? "We sold the time," said Pepe. When the Celtics finish the playoffs, the trio is planning a move to Thursdays in the slot taken by Celtics GM Chris Wallace . . . Both "The McDonough Group" (3-7 p.m.) and "Eddie and Jags" (with Tony Massarotti replacing Eddie Andelman from noon-3 p.m.) on WWZN will originate from Daisy Buchanan's on Newbury Street tomorrow in the shadow of Marathon crowds.

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