On Monday, 36,000 runners took back the streets of Boston one year after the devastating bombings that shook the city to its core. And while it's truly an international event, with both elites and your everyday runners flocking to Boston from around the globe, the state of Oregon was well represented on Monday.
First, there was Shalane Flanagan. She was the local favorite in Monday's race, having grown up in Marblehead just 30 minutes northeast of Boston. Now, Flanagan lives and trains in Portland, Oregon as she is sponsored by Nike. Flanagan trained all year for this day, and for much of the race, it looked as if she was in line to win it. Flanagan set the pace early, jumping right out in front. Anytime another runner would so much as pull up next to her, Flanagan would surge out ahead again, refusing to let anyone else dictate the pace as she led for the first 20 miles. However, as any marathon runner will tell you, the first half of a marathon is the first 20 miles, and the last half is the final 6.2 miles. Historically, elite runners who lead early don't fare well and often wind up getting spit out the back of the lead pack. Ironically enough, this is exactly what happened to Flanagan in the infamous section of the race known as "Heartbreak Hill," a grueling climb between miles 20 and 21 that lasts for about a half mile. Flanagan was dropped by her opponents and would finish 7th overall in 2:22:02, the fastest time in Boston Marathon history by an American.
On the men's side, there was Eugene's own Craig Leon, a member of Team Run Eugene who finished 12th overall in 2:14:28. Through 25 kilometers, Leon was averaging a 4:59 per mile pace. I'll have you read that again, a 4:59 per mile pace over the course of 15 and a half miles. At that point with just over 10 miles to go, Leon was on about 2:11 pace, which would have put him less than three minutes behind Meb Keflezighi who became the first American to win Boston in 31 years. It's likely however the Newton Hills took a toll on Leon though as his pace dropped from 4:59 per mile to 5:04 per mile over the next 10 kilometers. No doubt the slower pace was due to the hills, but his pace over the last five kilometers (which are primarily flat) was at 5:18, well off what he had been running before the hills. Leon wound up beating some top Americans including Ryan Hall (who owns the fastest time by an American at Boston) and Jason Hartmann (who placed 4th overall in 2012 and 2013). Leon has shown incredible improvement since debuting at the distance with a 2:23:15 performance at the 2010 Eugene Marathon. He's shaved 10 minutes off his time since then and is quickly becoming one of the nation's best marathon runners.
There was also a former Duck in the elite field as well. Jason Hartmann, who ran for the University of Oregon from 1999-2003, finished 42nd in the men's race with a time of 2:25:41. While Leon only lost about five minutes off of his projected time at the halfway point, Hartmann struggled in the second half of the race. After coming through the midway point in 1:05:53, just about 30 seconds behind Leon, Hartmann's pace quickly dropped off. His pace went from 5:01 to 5:07 in less than four kilometers. Then, between the 25 kilometer to the 30 kilometer mark, Hartmann averaged just a 6:08 pace. Between 30K and 35K, that pace was just 6:14. While many runners begin to feel the fatigue set in around mile 20 of a marathon, sometimes that wall comes a little bit earlier as it appeared to be the case with Hartmann.
But no matter what the results read at the end of the day, it was an emotional and inspiring day for all 36,000 runners and the 1,000,000 spectators that lined the course to cheer them on. One year removed from the tragic attacks, this year's Boston Marathon sent a message loud and clear. You can knock a runner (or a city) down, but runners and the city of Boston do not have the word "quit" in their vocabulary.