Sports Sportsin partnership with NESN your connection to The Boston Globe
Boston Marathon Course section

She was on fast track 20 years ago

By John Powers, Globe Staff, 4/19/2003

Joan Benoit Samuelson said she wasn't thinking about a world record when she hung up her astounding 2:22:43 here 20 years ago yesterday.

"I was thinking about running a fast time," Samuelson recalled yesterday. But nobody expected that "Joanie's Run" would destroy Allison Roe's global mark by more than two minutes and leave runner-up Jacqueline Gareau more than six minutes behind. "I remember people saying, `She's going to blow up, she's going to blow up," said Samuelson, who was on a 2:17 pace for much of the race. "But I was running within myself. When I got near the finish line and heard [announcer] Tom Grilk ["A ridiculous time"] going nuts, I thought, what is going on here?"

Much as Samuelson didn't expect a world mark that day, she said she never expected her subsequent American record (2:21:21 in Chicago in 1985) to last until Deena Drossin (2:21:16) broke it in London a week ago. "It was so close to 2:20 that I thought everyone would go after that barrier," Samuelson said. Now, with both Drossin and Marla Runyan on the scene, Samuelson thinks they'll push each other into the 2:19s. She also thinks both Runyan and Milena Glusac could be in the top five in Monday's race. "That'd be awesome," Samuelson said. Even if only one of them does it, it'll be the first time a US woman has placed that high since Kim Jones finished second to Russia's Olga Markova in 1993.

Opting for 10,000

Though Drossin would have the best chance at an Olympic women's marathon medal since Samuelson won gold in 1984, she said she almost certainly won't run the event in next year's Games, preferring the 10,000.

"There's only about a 10 percent chance," the Waltham-born Drossin said this week in a teleconference. "I guess what turns me off from running a marathon in Athens is I don't see the times there as being very quick and I don't want to waste my time running 26 miles if I'm not going to get a time out of it. The heat in Athens at that time is going to be tough to run a good marathon anyway. I feel I can still get a good time on the track, even if the conditions are warmer."

Drossin, by the way, is the first woman to hold the American record in both the marathon and 10,000 (30:50.32). Frank Shorter and Alberto Salazar are the only men to do it. The only question about Drossin's marathon mark is whether the USA Track & Field certifiers will conclude that she was paced by someone not officially in the race, which is against the rules. The London organizers did use male pacers, though it is unclear whether Drossin had one herself. The other issue is whether the men's and women's events, with their common start, are considered the same race.

Best bets

Once again the Kenyan cohorts figure to dominate the lead pack in the men's race, with eight of the 12 personal bests among the elite runners, all of them sub-2:10. Top time belongs to Vincent Kipsos (2:06:52, Berlin 2002), followed by Benjamin Kosgei Kimutai (2:07:26, Amsterdam 2002). After Italy's Giacomo Leone (2:07:52, Otsu 2001), it's defending champion Rodgers Rop (2:08:07, New York 2002), Christopher Cheboiboch (2:08:17, New York 2002), and Laban Kipkemboi (2:08:39, New York 2002). So what are the odds that a Kenyan will win here for the 12th time in 13 years? "Fifty to 60 percent," reckoned Rop, with a straight face. The Kenyan women, going for their fourth straight crown, have three of the top five personal bests with defending champ Margaret Okayo (2:20:43 here last year), Joyce Chepchumba (2:23:22, London 1999), and Esther Kiplagat (2:25:32, Paris 2002).

Looking up

Boston may be the granddaddy of all marathons, but it's not even in the top 10 of those with the most finishers, according to the USATF road running information center. Tops (based on last year's figures) is London (32,899), followed by New York (31,834). Boston comes 11th (14,573) and sixth in the US. Time standards (a cap of 15,000 entrants for the last two years, 20,000 now) have much to do with that, of course. Boston still holds the record for most finishers in a race -- 38,708 for the 100th running in 1996.

This story ran on page E9 of the Boston Globe on 4/19/2003.
Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.

Race Day Coverage
Stuck at work? Check out out stride-by-stride webcast for up-to-the-minute Boston Marathon updates.