Where Your Dreams Become Reality
2008 Women's Olympic Trials Recap: Deena Triumphs in Boisterous Boston
Ho-hum, Deena Kastor won the 2008 Women's Olympic Marathon Trials in 2:29:35.
If that's your initial reaction on hearing Deena winning the Trials, then clearly you didn't witness the incredible spectacle in Boston on Sunday.
On a spectacular, sunny day, tens and thousands of people poured onto the streets of Boston to create an atmosphere the Olympic Trials has never seen before. Take the crowd in New York for the men's Olympic Trials, at least double it and then you might have a starting point. (The course set-ups were slightly different, but nearly everyone we talked to in Boston thought the crowd was at least double the crowd in NY (despite locals saying there was almost zero pre-race publicity on the Trials)).
Lewy Boulet to the Lead
Magdalena Lewy Boulet seized control of the race from the gun. The first mile was slow (6:03), but she was already clear of the field. By mile 3 she was 44 seconds ahead of the field (but only on 2:32:30 pace, the chase pack was on 2:38:54 pace). Magdalena was one of the top contenders heading into Sunday's race after finishing fifth in 2004, and setting a 10k pr two weeks ago at Stanford. Thus it was surprising that the other favorites let Lewy Boulet open up such a big lead despite the very slow opening pace. After the race both Deena Kastor and Blake Russell said they did not recognize Lewy Boulet's new hair style and did not realize it was her out front until the first turn around (5 miles).
By mile 5, Magdalena was a minute and five seconds ahead. Kastor and crew no doubt knew who was in front of them then, but they made no attempt to narrow the gap. Lewy Boulet continued to grow her lead. She cruised through half in 1:14:38 and lengthened her lead to its biggest margin at 14 miles (1:54). The chase pack had been whittled down to 9 (Olympic bronze medallist Deena Kastor, 2004 Olympians at 10k Elva Dryer and Kate O'Neill, Alan Webb's training partner Samia Akbar, Brooks Team Hansons Melissa White, prodigious marathoner Mary Akor, Brooks Team Hansons Desiree Davila, Zoila Gomez, and Ann Alyanak).
Deena Begins the Chase
Upfront, Magdalena started to rally. She ran 5:39 and 5:30 miles for miles 17 and 18 to actually get another second ahead of Deena (leading by 1:43 at 18 miles). Deena continued to plug away and would run at least 5:30 miles (1 mile at 5:29) the rest of the way. Then at mile 20 (the start of the "second half" of the marathon) Magdalena began to falter slightly. She ran 5:51, and for those of us doing the math, it seemed that Deena would catch up to Lewy Boulet by the finish.
Deena picked up 23 seconds, 20 seconds, and 22 seconds on Magdalena during the 21st, 22nd and 23 miles, and on the 24th mile she went by Lewy Boulet. Order was restored but it had not been without drama.
Afterwards Deena said there were points in the middle of the race where she thought she was racing for second. "For the longest time I thought I might may have misjudged Magdalena'(s) strength," she said. She added she had thoughts of "succumbing to second place in the middle of the race."
Magdalena had a huge cushion on third and was still running 5:50 miles. When Deena went by, Magdalena tried to latch on and ran a 5:42 the next mile. After that Magdalena knew she was booking her ticket to Beijing, "At that point I knew the three of us would be on the team," she said afterwards.
The Battle for the Final Olympic Spot
However, Davila's lack of marathon experience (2:44:56 pr) soon paid its toll. Just like that, she began to fade. Miles of 6:06, 6:15 and 6:25 would do her in. (Things got much, much worse for Davila as she ran 7:33 on the 25th mile and 7:54 for the 26th, to finish 13th in 2:37:50. A 7 minute pr, but not what she was looking for). All Blake Russell had to do was hold on and she was going to Beijing.
This time the final miles were much more pleasant for Blake than they were in 2004 when she faded to fourth place. She held on to comfortably finish in 3rd in 2:32.40.
She'll join the legend Kastor and the brave Lewy Boulet on the Olympic Team in Beijing. Not qualifying would have almost been an injustice to Kastor, Magdalena Boulet deserved to go for running a brave and strong race, and Russel's selection was the culmination of four years of perseverence. In 2004 at the Trials, she went out with a huge lead at half-way (1:11:58) then cratered over the second half to finish in the most frustrating spot at the Olympic Trials- fourth.
She and her coach, Joan Benoit's former coach Bob Sevene, began plotting for redemption four years later. She said the ramnifications of making the team had not "sunk in" but that it was the result of a lot of hard work and planning. She said, "after the disaster in 2004, my coach and I knew we had to sit down and develop a game plan to get where I am now." This time, Russell ran a smarter race and was rewarded.
Fourth place at the Trials can be a bitter place to swallow, especially the way Blake finished fourth in 2004, but the fouth place finisher is the first alternate for the Olympic team. A little over a minute behind Russell, (former Adam State star) Zoila Gomez and Tera Moody (she was on Colorado's 2001 NCAA XC National Championship team) were battling for the alternate spot.
Gomez had initially been in the chase pack with Deena whereas Moody had been heading up the 2nd pack behind Gomez and Deena (30 seconds farther back at halfway). Moody had passed Gomez during the 23rd mile but Gomez hung tough and came back to pass Moody the last mile and get the coveted 4th spot by one second. It's a crucial one second as if any of the top 3 get injured, Gomez will be going to Beijing. Gomez knew what was at stake, "I wasn't sure if I had enough energy. I didnít know I had a kick, but then I just remembered I was in fourth place and you're going to regret it if you don't try. So I just went for it and I knew if I died right before the finish, I could crawl anyway," she said.
Magdalena Talks About Getting the Big Lead
Lewy Boulet showed no signs of nerves, but said being out front was a bit strange. "I was definitely a bit uncomfortable, a bit surprised I was out there by myself."
Magdalena said as the race went on, the possibility of doing the unthinkable (beating Deena) entered her mind. She said, "Actually for a moment I thought I was going to win the race."
Then Deena upper her pace and Boulet-Lewy began to fade a bit. Boulet said she could see Deena closing in on her and also knew from the crowd that Deena was gaining on her. "For a while everyone was telling me it was 1:40 (my lead) and then they stopped telling me what the gap was, so I knew she was coming."
Kate O'Neill Dropped Out With Injured Knee
Joan Benoit Gets Another Record in Her Final Competitive Marathon
Joan summed up her career pretty succinctly when she said, "It's been a great run."
Deena Fastest Mile 5:29, Her Marathon Pace in London 5:20