With last year’s Olympic trio of Meb Keflezighi, Ryan Hall, and Abdi Abdirahman all scratched from the Boston Marathon due to fitness or illness, Jason Hartmann, who was fourth here last year, will be the top American hope to end the three-decade domestic drought on Monday. Not that he’s feeling the burden of expectation.
“I’m just here to compete, that’s really all I’m here to do,” said the 32-year-old University of Oregon grad, whose personal best of 2:11:06 was set in Chicago three years ago. “That’s all outside stuff that’s out of my control, so the only thing I can focus on is myself. I don’t really pay attention to the noise. The race will be what it will be at the end of the day.”
While Hartmann says he’s happy with his preparation, he understands how much depends on the day, especially on Boston’s trapdoor layout.
“You never know,” he said. “I like to think of the marathon as like a big prize fight. Anything can happen. You can train perfectly for it and be hit by an uppercut and get knocked out.”
A bit of advice
Fernando Cabada, the only other elite American in the men’s field and a Boston rookie, got a bit of wisdom from Bill Rodgers, the four-time champ who dropped out atop Heartbreak Hill in his debut 40 years ago.
“Don’t go out too fast,” Boston Billy cautioned the 30-year-old California native. “Pick up the pieces. Go out at 2:11 pace and run 2:09.”
“Now I’ll have someone to blame,” joked Cabada, who ran his personal best (2:11:53) when he finished seventh in last year’s Olympic trials.
Dressed for success
Shalane Flanagan and Kara Goucher will be easy to spot in the lead pack of elite women on Monday. They worked with Nike to create special uniforms for the Marathon. With the potential of becoming the first American to win since 1985, Flanagan and Goucher will be wearing red, white and blue. The uniforms also feauture special symbols and quotes significant to each runner.
“Kara and I will have quotes that are inspiration to us in our shoes and in the waistband of our shorts,” said Flanagan. “And Kara and I have picked out emblems that are meaningful to us. My Irish heritage will be represented in various aspects. We also said we wanted something super-patriotic. It’s Patriots Day and we’re American. So, there’s definitely a patriotic element to our uniform.”
Difficult first test
The fresh face among the elite men belongs to Kenya’s Micah Kogo, the bronze medalist in the 10,000 meters in the Beijing Olympics who’s making his marathon debut. Geoffrey Mutai, who set the world best of 2:03:02 here two years ago, advised his training partner to try an easier layout.
“He told me not to run in Boston because it’s a very hard course,” said Kogo, the former Beach-to-Beacon victor and Falmouth runner-up. “He told me to run a place like Holland or Paris. Boston is a quite big challenge, but it’s a good start for me.”
Ricky Simms, who also manages Olympic sprint champion Usain Bolt, figured that any 26-mile course would be a demanding outing for Kogo. “For Micah, there are no easy races,” he said. “They’re all going to be tough races. But he has maximized his potential on the track. It’s a natural progression.”