Keflezighi, Hall give US strong 1-2 punch
Ryan Hall still was in diapers the last time an American man won the Boston Marathon. But with the country’s two best runners in Hall and Meb Keflezighi lining up this morning for the 114th edition, the United States has its best chance at claiming the laurel wreath since Greg Meyer won in 1983.
“It’s become the norm that an African will win a major race,’’ acknowledges Hall, who was third in his debut here last year. “But Meb won in New York. It’s just a matter of time.’’
Keflezighi, who ended a 27-year domestic drought in Manhattan last November, would be the first US male to win consecutive races there and here since Alberto Salazar in 1982.
But he and Hall will be up against seven foreigners who’ve broken 2 hours 7 minutes — Ethiopian defending champion Deriba Merga, countryman Chala Dechase, Kenya’s Gilbert Yegon, Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot, Elijah Keitany, and David Kipkorir Mandago, plus Morocco’s Abderrahim Goumri, whose personal best of 2:05:30 is the field’s fastest.
“They’re not making it any easier for Ryan or me,’’ says Keflezighi, who was third here in 2006. “But we want to be the best in the world.’’
Meyer, who will be on hand today, says he’s surprised that no other Yank has won it in 27 years.
“I thought I’d win again,’’ he says. “We had three guys under 2:10 that day (Meyer, Ron Tabb, and Benji Durden) and a bunch of guys under 2:12. I assumed it would keep going. It’s been overdue.’’
When he’s wearing his Red Sox cap, Meyer is a dead ringer for manager Terry Francona and has turned more than a few heads in the Hub. “I wish that would get me in the gate,’’ chuckles Meyer, who would love to meet the town team’s skipper.
Though he grew up in Michigan, Meyer didn’t see a major league game until he attended one at Fenway in 1978. Now, he’s sworn to the Nation.
“Life wouldn’t get any better than having a seat on top of The Wall on a warm summer night,’’ says Meyer, who threw out the first ball on Marathon Weekend two years ago to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his victory.
Gareau, who is remarkably trim and fit at 57, hasn’t run a 26-miler since she returned for the 100th race in 1996, but she figures she can go somewhere between 3:15 and 3:30 if an iffy Achilles’ tendon cooperates.
Gareau, who officially was awarded the 1980 laurel wreath a week after Ruiz was determined to have cheated, acknowledges that the most bizarre episode in race history ironically has given her an enduring touch of fame.
“I missed the euphoria, the moment,’’ says the Quebec native, who now is a massage therapist and was the race’s grand marshal five years ago. “But it stays with me until I die, I guess.’’
Gareau went on to have a distinguished career on the roads, winning nine of the 30 marathons she entered, finishing fifth in the world championships and competing in the 1984 Olympics. But her proudest achievement, she says, is 17-year-old son Yannick, a talented cross-country skier. “He is my gold medal,’’ Gareau says.
“I don’t think it will be slow,’’ says Kosgei, who’d be the first champion to repeat since countrywoman Catherine Ndereba in 2005. “[Last year] was a mistake.’’
Though a stiff headwind was one reason for the slowest winning time (2:32:16) since 1985, Kosgei chalks up the over-deliberate pace to wariness about Kara Goucher.
“We feared each other last year,’’ she says. “We were worried because she was so confident.’’
Goucher isn’t here today, but Tune is and she won’t rule out another photo finish. “All the people here are top runners,’’ says Tune, whose two-second triumph over Russia’s Alevtina Biktimirova in 2008 was previously the closest finish.
“We stay together. It doesn’t split until the last moment.’’