The race is in the books and we have our 2008 Women's Olympic Marathon Team.
Running a 4 loop criterium style course along the Charles River in Boston, 161 runners took off in perfect marathon weather. Cool temps, sunny, little breeze.
Magdalena Lewy Boulet took charge of the race almost from the first steps. Boulet is a native of Poland who got her citizenship on 9/11/01. She is married to former 1500 meter and mile stud Richie Boulet. Although she came into the race ranked 43rd, her PR was in the low 2:30's and so she wasn't just out to get some camera time in the early miles.
Boulet hit a pretty steady 2:28 pace through the first half of the race, running miles mostly in the 5:30 to 5:40 range.
Through that first half she built up a lead of almost 2 minutes as the chase pack stayed at about a 2:32 pace. The chase pack contained 10 to 14 people at various times; but, in the first half of the race included all of the contenders, including Deena, Elva, Kate O'Neill, Mary Akor, Blake Russell, Zoila Gomez and Desiree Davilla.
Boulet hit the 1/2 way mark at 1:14:37 (2:29:14 pace) with the chase pack 1:50 back in 1:16:27 (2:33 pace).
Around 14.5, Deena, Blake Russell and Akor pushed the pace a bit and began to open a gap on the rest of the chase pack. You could sense that Deena decided that it was time to begin to take control of making sure that she got onto the team.
About a mile later, Deena had enough of sitting back. She took off on her own after Boulet and pretty quickly Russell and Akor began to string out behind Deena. But, even at this point, Boulet still had a lead of over 1:40.
A bit after 16, Russell was decisevely in 3rd and Akor looked to be toast. Not much later (around 17) Davilla began to close the gap on Russell.
Through 30K, Russell and Davilla were only about 10 to 20 seconds behind Deena, and Boulet still had a lead of over 90 seconds. There was a period right about their (on one of the 180 degree turns) that Deena didn't look so hot.
But, then, hitting the bridge over the river, Deena suddenly seemed to look like the stud that she is. Her form smoothed out and she had that look on her face that showd that she still wanted to win this thing.
20 miles was right at the original staring line. The big flag over the start was staying pretty still; so, obviously the wind wasn't going to be the deciding factor on how the race turned out.
Boulet was still 78 seconds ahead of Deena, who had 55 seconds on Russell. But, just 7 seconds behind Russell was Davilla. Davilla runs for the Hansons-Brooks group in Michigan and it looked like she may be playing the same hand that got Brian Sell a spot on the men's team. And, if that happened, it would mean a second consectuve 4th place finish for Russell (can anyone say Lisa Weidenbach???).
By 21, Boulet was looking a bit ragged and had slowed to 5:50 miles. And Deena was on a roll. In the last mile she had made up over 15 seconds on Boulet and she was pushing hard. It was clearly only a matter of time. Well, that time came at about 23.5 miles (2:14:50). Deena came alongside Boulet and the race for first was over. Boulet hung gamely for about 400 meters; but, Deena was not to be denied. Now the only question whether or not Deena could get the big negative split and go sub-2:30. It had only been done 5 times in previous Oly Trials.
The race for 3rd also seemed to be decided. Russell seemed to hold steady and Davilla began to fall away after 22 miles. So, barring someone blowing up, the team seemed to be set.
And so, it was. Deena makes her second team in the marathon (and 3rd overall I believe) by running a second half in 1:13:07 (over 3 minutes faster than the first half) to win in 2:29:34.
Boulet ran strong to the finish to hold 2nd place in 2:30:18 (1:14:37/1:15:41).
Blake Russell ends up putting over a minute on 4th place to capture the last team slot by running 2:32:39 (1:16:27/1:16:12)
4th and 5th were almost a dead heat with Zoila Gomez (2:33:53) overtaking Tara Moody (2:33:54) in the last few meters. It should be noted that Moody came into the race with number 152 and a qualifying time of 2:46:40. So, a pretty big performance for her.
The sentimental moment of the day was watching Joan Benoit Samualson finish her last competitive marathon by setting a new 50-59 American record in 2:50:26. She wore a Red Sox ball cap across the finish line - much like she did in her 1979 win. How fitting to end where it all started.
A few random notes:
All 3 women currently live in California.
Asics runners won both the mens and women's trials.
Nike was not represented on the podium with the runners representing Ascis, TranSprot and Reebok.
All 3 meet the Olympic A standard of 2:37:00 (so we can have a full team and at least on serious medal contender).
As soon as I can get the results of our Montana women, I'll pass them along.