De Reuck masters the course

She is critical of slow pace of race

By Barbara Matson
Globe Correspondent / April 21, 2009
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Colleen De Reuck, light and fit two years after the birth of her second daughter, was prepared to run a strong Boston Marathon yesterday - for a 45-year-old. The four-time Olympian is now a masters runner who juggles parenting, a part-time job, and her training. Still, she felt ready to run a time near 2 hours 30 minutes.

Strong winds curbed her speed, but they didn't stop De Reuck from sticking with the sluggish lead pack of the women's elite group for most of the race.

De Reuck crossed the finish line in 2:35:37 to win the masters division and place eighth overall among the women. Russia's Alina Ivanova was the second masters finisher, 10th overall, in 2:36:50.

The women's elite runners got a separate start in Hopkinton, ahead of the men and the masses, but then plodded along at such a slow pace that the men's front-runners threatened to catch them. The women's lead group was at least 10 strong for more than three-quarters of the race, and De Reuck not only was in it, she took the lead on three occasions.

"I was a little bit embarrassed running up in front," said De Reuck, a native of South Africa who became an American citizen in 2000. "You come to a big marathon like this, I feel that . . . you get paid a lot of money to come and run and I think you should race.

"I didn't want to go out in the front, and [her husband] Darren said, 'Don't go out in front, just sit back,' but a 6:28 mile is pretty slow."

There were still 10 women in the lead pack at the 20-mile mark (1:58:56).

"They put in a really hard surge and I just dropped off," De Reuck said. "They slowed down and I caught them again. I was afraid for them. I thought they would go at maybe halfway, that they'd make a big break but they didn't.

"I think they were just looking at each other, watching each other and not wanting to take the wind.

"It was such a good field. I was shocked I was in front. I never thought the pace would be so slow. I didn't know what to do, so I thought, 'I'll just run my race.' "

James Kosgei of Kenya won the men's masters race in 2:14:52. The 40-year-old had the pavement to himself, finishing more than seven minutes ahead of runner-up Gino Van Geyte of Belgium.

"I'm very happy to be here today and win the masters division," he said. "I was ready. I trained hard. I was ready to run my fastest marathon. But after 30 kilometers, then things got tough. Next year, I will change how I run."

There were no surprises for the spectators in the men's wheelchair race. Ernst Van Dyk won Boston for the eighth time in 1:33:29, tying Jean Driscoll's record for victories here. Masazumi Soejima of Japan was second in 1:36:57.

But the 36-year-old Van Dyk is still capable of surprising himself.

"This is the one year where I had the least confidence," said Van Dyk, who became a first-time father five months ago. "I didn't feel as strong.

"What we sometimes forget is that experience. I did my first marathon when I was 18. Sometimes it's all in the mind."

Van Dyk took the race out fast, as is his custom, and had just a moment of doubt. He looked back at about 4 kilometers and saw a group of six or seven guys chasing him. For a moment, he thought if the group worked together, they would be able to reel him in.

"But I realized these are all very diverse guys and they're not going to work together," he said.

Through an interpreter, Soejima said the combination of the strong wind and his light weight was a problem.

"Maybe next year I would like to gain some weight, come back and try again," he said.

"As the race progressed, the wind just got stronger and stronger," Van Dyk said. "It was kind of scary to be in front and be by yourself. This course is such that you can't really see what is going on behind you. You have no idea where the guys are behind you. I think going into the wind and giving all of your energy to break the wind is very scary."

Cresting Heartbreak Hill, Van Dyk knew victory No. 8 was his.

"If you're at the top and you can't see anybody, there's only 10K to go, mostly rolling hills," he said. "So you can really set a pace and coast to the finish."

Wakako Tsuchida of Japan won the women's wheelchair division for the third straight year, finishing in 1:54:37, ahead of Canada's Diane Roy (2:01:27) and Shirley Reilly of Tucson (2:04:54).

The 34-year-old, who was involved in a nasty collision on the track during the 5,000-meter race at the Beijing Paralympics last fall, jumped ahead of her competitors on the first big downhill and led the rest of the way. After 9 miles, her competitors never saw her again.

"The wind was very harsh this year," Tsuchida said through an interpreter. "But I was aiming for my third and I won it so I am very happy."

"The worst part for me today was the last 15K - very windy," said Roy, who finished second for the fourth consecutive year.