Monday, April 21, 2008

2008 Women's Olympic Marathon Trials

Races are cool. High-level races are even cooler. World class races are off the charts. Add into the equation that you know one of the athletes...well, let's just say it was crazy.

The day started early with Dunkin' Donuts and the T. Ah, Boston. We arrived at the Hynes Convention Center T Station about 30 minutes before the start of the race. It's always tough to come up with an optimal strategy to watch a race, and it's even tougher to move through the crowds to get to the prime viewing spots. This race was no exception, and, really, that's what made it cool. There were only 146 women running, but there were thousands of people out to watch. Awesome atmosphere.

The course was not the traditional Boston Marathon course. Instead, the course involved a short loop around Boston and then 4 loops across the Mass. Ave. bridge into Cambridge. It made for great spectating. We positioned ourselves a short way down from the start to get a glimpse of the first few moments of the race. After the race went off, we maneuvered our way to the corner of Mass. and Comm. Aves. We knew this would allow us to see the racers, well, specifically Blake, about 8 times. The race was really exciting. In fact, it was tough to watch. Tragically, as has been over-documented, Blake finished 4th in the Olympic Marathon Trials in 2004 after leading for much of the race—missing an Olympic team spot by one place, so, needless to say, we were pulling hard for her.

Long story short: She kicked ass. She ran a great race and finished in a very strong third place. We're thrilled for her and Jon. We know it's been a tough four years. As she has said many times, she didn't want her claim to fame to be a fourth place finish. No need to worry about that anymore.

From our perspective, our plan worked perfectly, and we were able to see much of the race. Unfortunately, at the finish we were crammed in and didn't really get to see anything. We could watch the monitor, hear the announcers and hear the cheers, so we knew what had happened. What an atmosphere!

With only 146 women racing, the crowd started to thin following the race. We hadn't seen Jon or Blake before the race, so we really wanted to try to see them. More so, now that she was an Olympian! So we just wandered into the finish area. There were a few athletes, coaches and family members milling around, but no Jon or Blake. We wandered to the end of the athlete tent, and just as we reached the tent exit, Jon and Blake popped out under police escort. I wove my way between two cops and grabbed Jon. Luckily, he gave me a big hug, so I didn't get tasered. We were able to congratulate them, but we were slowing down the progress. Blake was on her way to the official post-race press conference. So, in order to keep things moving, we jumped in behind them, and with the police escort, we went in the Fairmont Hotel. Suddenly, we were part of the event. We walked right into the press conference with those guys, and Jon and I tried not to disrupt it by cracking jokes. It was pretty cool. We hung out with them for a bit, but Blake was trapped in a whirlwind of media and ceremonies. We were able to meet up with the family and hang out for a bit with them before Blake had more "duties." "Hey, you just ran a marathon, let's make you walk around a lot, talk to a million people and not eat anything" Kind of annoying. Then again, it's better than the alternative.

It was a crazy, exciting and tiring day. Hopefully, a day later it's starting to sink in for her. Well deserved. Congratulations, Blake!

Here's my video recap of the race:

On a personal note, I was able to walk around Boston all day, and my calf doesn't feel any worse. That being said, watching that race was especially hard knowing that I'm on the shelf. It was really inspiration, and probably could have run at least a half marathon off the adrenaline. OK, maybe only a 10k.

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