Marathon Notebook

’85 champion got family into the act

By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / April 20, 2010

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The last time an American won the Boston Marathon — male or female — was 1985, when Lisa Rainsberger (then Lisa Larsen-Weidenbach) won in 2:34:06.

Yesterday, the 48-year-old Rainsberger, of Colorado Springs, commemorated the 25th anniversary of her triumph by running with her husband Ellis and their 26-year-old daughter, Meghan, who made her marathon debut. The Rainsbergers crossed the finish line as a family in the unofficial time of 4:04.

“I was her shadow. I guided her,’’ Rainsberger said. “It was her first marathon ever, and so she was the most trained member of the family. You go through the peaks and valleys of happiness and despair, and when you cross the finish line all the despair goes away.’’

So how did she find the course, a quarter-century later?

“I found Boston College more rambunctious than Wellesley College,’’ she said. “They won the cheerleading award today.’’

Of her 1985 triumph, Rainsberger recalled, “It was my race to lose. I remember I went to the starting line thinking, ‘I’m going to win this race.’

“I ran scared. It was hot, about 72 degrees. The race started at noon, and the pavement was hot and the air temperature was hot, and I took water about every 5K. I had no fuel, just water. I was craving sugar towards the end.’’

With an eight-minute lead over runner-up Lynne Huntington, Rainsberger certainly had enough time to duck in for a Snickers somewhere.

“Or the Eliot Lounge,’’ she cracked. “I actually thought about it.’’

Though he finished runner-up by three seconds to wheelchair champion Ernst Van Dyk yesterday, Krige Schabort wasn’t going to let it spoil his day.

“This is my seventh second place here,’’ said the 46-year-old South African, who now resides in Cedartown, Ga. “But, to me, it feels like a win.’’

Actually, it was Schabort’s eighth runner-up finish in Boston. All but two came against his 37-year-old compatriot, Van Dyk.

Yesterday, Schabort was unable to hold a tenuous lead he took onto Boylston Street and watched as Van Dyk sprinted past him to claim a record ninth Boston title, making him the winningest competitor in the history of this storied race.

“On the last corner, Ernst came up to me and I looked at him and he looked at me and he said, ‘Well, let’s go for a spin, it’s between the two of us,’ ’’ Schabort said. “Of course, I knew the sprint was going to be his strength.

“I knew it was his ninth coming up for him and I went up to Ernst and said, ‘This will probably be the only time for me to ever be first, so why don’t you just give it to me? Next year you could go for the ninth.’

“But Ernst is a phenomenal athlete. I was fortunate to be in the lead for a little while.

“For me, it feels like a win, because I feel like I gave my best.’’

In the women’s wheelchair race, Wakako Tsuchida of Japan won her fourth consecutive title in 1:43:32, with Diane Roy of Canada second in 1:47:08.

Answering the call
Paige Higgins, 27, of Flagstaff, Ariz., was the top US women’s runner, finishing 13th in 2:36:00. “I was supposed to run Boston last year, but unfortunately, I had to get knee surgery done,’’ Higgins said. “It is wonderful to be back here. It was a year of hard times and pushing for it, but Boston has been calling for me all year.’’ . . . For those who follow older runners, here are a few results for familiar names: Zofia Turosz, 71, of Manchester, Conn., slowed slightly this year and did not defend her title in the 70-74 age group. But she still ran a 4:26:19 that was good enough for second place. Doris Schertz, 71, of Lombard, Ill., took home the title in 4:25:04. Katherine Beiers of Santa Cruz, Calif., claimed the 75-79 division again. The 77-year-old ran a 5:09:56. And 81-year-old Robert Borglund finished in 4:37:24 to win the 80-plus age group.

Working around it
Although the clouds of volcanic ash from Iceland wreaked havoc with travelers going to and from Europe, race organizers managed to get 38 of 39 elite competitors into Boston, save for Abdellah Falil of Morocco.

“He wound up getting stuck in Paris because it closed,’’ said Mary Kate Shea, a John Hancock consultant for the Boston Marathon Project who finished her 14th Boston in 3:45. “Historically, in Boston, we like the athletes to come in early to enjoy race week activities. This year, it worked in our favor, completely.’’

Getting the athletes into Boston was one matter, but getting them out of town will pose another challenge.

“We have everybody lined up and ready to go with contingency plans in case they can’t get out,’’ Shea said. “A majority of athletes and guests are scheduled to go out tomorrow and there are about 25 or so who are going through European capitals for some leg of the trip, so we’re just kind of keeping them in queue and waiting.

“We’ve also arranged to have housing and [for] some of the guests to change their flight itinerary.’’

Thom Gilligan, president of Charlestown-based Marathon Tours, said he had about 200 runners and 100 guests cancel their travel packages from Europe to Boston because of the volcanic ash. His agency also handles tours to the London Marathon and is scheduled to lead a tour of 500 travelers for Sunday’s race.

“So we have back-to-back problems,’’ he said. “I’ve been in the travel business for 37 years and never have seen a natural disaster create such a travel calamity.’’

What a crowd
BAA officials reported there were 26,790 official entrants, the second-most since the 100th running in 1996 drew 38,708. There were 2,849 bibs that went uncollected, with eight picked up at the last minute, including one on Hopkinton Green just before the start. There was a record 11,328 women entered, surpassing the mark of 10,934 set last year. Among them was actress Valerie Bertinelli, who ran a 5:14:37 to finish 9,079th in her gender, just four days from celebrating her 50th birthday April 23 . . . BAA medical officials reported that 1,324 runners were treated along the route and 33 had to be transported to hospitals.

Shira Springer of the Globe staff contributed to this report.