Dan Shaughnessy

Runners all scored (except at Fenway)

By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / April 20, 2010

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Early in the afternoon, there were thousands of people running toward Kenmore Square, their faces twisted, their pain obvious at the end of an excruciating ordeal. Some needed medical treatment.

Those were the Red Sox fans, beating feet out of Fenway Park after another hideous (8-2) loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Marathon runners? Most of them were doing pretty well by comparison. Running 26.2 miles is a piece of cake compared with watching the local baseball team these days. In April 2010, the Fenway mound is Heartbreak Hill.

The 114th Boston Marathon gave us a course record, a continuation of African dominance, and some old-time BAA mistaken identity.

On a splendid day for running, men’s winner Robert K. Cheruiyot hoofed from Hopkinton to the Back Bay in 2:05:52, a whopping 1:22 faster than anybody ever ran the course. This created considerable confusion, because the 21-year-old Kenyan is not the same guy who won Boston in 2003, 2006, 2007, and 2008.

A same-name winner is not a first for Boston. Back in the days when New Englanders actually won this race, the immortal John A. Kelley won Boston in 1935 and 1945, then later finished back in the pack when the race was won by John J. Kelley in 1957. They came to be known as “Johnny the Elder’’ and “Johnny the Younger’’ and now we have “Cheruiyot the Elder’’ (he pulled out of this year’s race last month) and “Cheruiyot the Younger.’’

The women’s race was won by Ethiopia’s Teyba Erkesso, beating Russian Tatyana Pushkareva, a 24-year-old former ballroom dancer who might be a candidate for “Dancing with the Stars.’’

All in all, a good day for the 30,000 runners (including those lovable bandits) who ran for charity, heat sheets (we used to call them Mylar bags), medals, and the eternal thrill of saying they conquered Boston.

No more beef stew, people. The canned Dinty Moore is for those of us sitting at home, watching the race on television.

“It was just a very exciting day,’’ said race director Guy Morse. “We haven’t had times like this for many years. The weather [55 degrees, mostly sunny] was almost perfect for runners. And there was a crosswind that made it fair.’’

Some of us xenophobes were hoping for the first American men’s victory since Greg Meyer (who has morphed into a dead ringer for Terry Francona) in 1983. For a few days it appeared the volcanic ash from Iceland might strand some of the elite runners on foreign soil, or perhaps they might oversleep like Trinidad’s Jean-Paul Jean-Paul of “Seinfeld’’ lore. Alas, almost all made it to Boston, on time, and three of them ran past my fellow American Ryan Hall (Mammoth Lakes, Calif.), who finished in an impressive 2:08:41.

There were 30,000 stories in the near-Naked City. A man from Japan stopped to photograph a clock above Boylston Street before he crossed the finish line. A military division, each soldier wearing his backpack and fatigues, crossed the line en masse behind the company flag. Evan Powers, a trader from Charlottesville, Va., who grew up in Wellesley, finished his first marathon in 4:07:55. He ran for the Bay State Games Foundation. Caitie Peterson of Hingham and Justin Bourassa, a teacher from Arlington High School, came in together at 4:51:20. They ran for Team Dana-Farber. Sarah Stevenson, who works for the Red Sox, finished in 4:47:58. She ran for Children’s Hospital.

Barry Miller of Sudbury and Kristen Elechko of Greenfield met at the finish line, both coming in just after 3 1/2 hours.

“For me, this was about ticking off one town after another,’’ said Miller. “Hopkinton, down. Ashland, down. Framingham, down. The group at Boston College was the best.’’

Elechko had 26 names inscribed (in pen) on the inside of her right arm.

“These are the people that supported me on every one of those miles,’’ she said after crossing the finish line.

Brenna McNiff, a 20-year-old junior at Duke (via Beverly), finished in 3:31:31 and said, “I saw my dad and four younger brothers at Heartbreak Hill, and my mom was waiting for me on Hereford Street. I passed the Hoyts on Heartbreak Hill and said, ‘You’re awesome!’ ’’

Meghan Murray of Raleigh, N.C., holding a baby girl on each hip, waited patiently on the sidewalk in front of the Boston Public Library. She was rewarded when her husband, Rory, a Hingham native who now works in commercial real estate on Tobacco Road, finished in 4:01:38.

“I only have one request,’’ Rory Murray said as he caught his breath after the finish. “What can we do to straighten out those Red Sox?’’

As the endless stream of runners flowed down Boylston toward the finish, Sheryl Crow’s “If It Makes You Happy’’ boomed out of the public address system. A man with a microphone kept the crowd informed, announcing as many finishers as possible in the blur of singlets.

Caught up in the enthusiasm and spirit of this spectacular day, he bellowed, “We’ve decided not to announce the score of today’s Red Sox game.’’

Some comfort there for the humanity, on an otherwise perfect Marathon Monday.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at

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