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115th Boston Marathon | The Americans

A happy fourth for Hall

Goucher’s fifth a disappointment

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By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / April 19, 2011

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Ryan Hall has taken off on his own. Having left his coach, having left his club, having found a new training regimen, Hall has also found himself. He looked comfortable in yesterday’s Boston Marathon as he set the pace early for the men’s field on his way to the fastest time ever run by an American, a searing 2 hours 4 minutes 58 seconds that had him beaming after the race.

That time would have won Boston last year. It left Hall fourth this year.

“For some reason, whenever I break through, I’m in a race of people who are all breaking through as well,’’ Hall said with a smile. “One of these times, I’m going to break through when everyone else is having an off day, and come away with the victory.’’

Still, this was a significant achievement for Hall, the top American contender. It was his first marathon since splitting with coach Terrence Mahon in October, after which he went through health issues and a disappointing finish in the New York half marathon. He altered his preparation for Boston, coming down from altitude two weeks ago, and shattered his previous bests.

“My plan was just to run my own rhythm,’’ Hall said. “It felt very smooth and very comfortable and very relaxed out there.

“I was just having a good time. I was just enjoying the streets, enjoying running through all the neighborhoods, enjoying the crowds.

“I love Boston. I think I should move here. I feel like a hometown boy here.’’

Two Americans finished in the top five on the women’s side, runner-up Desiree Davila and fifth-place Kara Goucher.

While Hall and Davila were pleased with their results, Goucher was disappointed. It was her first race since giving birth 6 1/2 months ago to her son, who greeted her at the finish.

“My plan was just to run with the pack as long as possible,’’ said Goucher, who finished in 2:24:52. “Although I had great training, felt really strong, this was kind of a big step.

“I felt like the race was very hard. Desi went by me and encouraged me to keep my eyes up, and it was like I was standing still. I was like, ‘OK, go get ’em.’

“It was tough, but it was a great first step and I was really pleased to get a [personal record].’’

She made it clear, though, that her finish wasn’t nearly good enough.

“I want to win here,’’ she said. “Desi wants to win here. We all want to be the one that ends that [American] drought.

“But it wasn’t my day. I wasn’t even close to being the one. I just go home and I just want to work even harder and get more time under my belt.

“This was my first step back. It was a good, solid performance. It wasn’t good enough today. That doesn’t mean that it’s over. It just means this was one more step toward that goal.’’

Hall said he felt far more comfortable at the front of the pack than he had in recent years, and other runners on the podium thanked him for setting a pace that resulted in an unofficial world record (2:03:02 by Kenyan Geoffrey Mutai).

“I don’t like to limit myself,’’ Hall said. “I never do in practice, and I like to arrive ahead of schedule, in my training runs and in racing. I see that as a positive thing, to be fast.

“When I’m giving people advice on how to run this course, I love to say, ‘Use the downhills, get out fast, be aggressive,’ because that’s how I love to run. That’s what I did today.’’

He dropped back at times, losing his lead and gaining it back. He trusted himself, trusted in his experience, having run Boston twice. He knew the pace would be slow at times, that he would be able to catch up. He couldn’t quite catch up all the way, but he continued to give hope to those looking for an American winner in Boston.

“We’re knocking on the door — 2:08 last year and 2:04 this year — keep putting it out there,’’ Hall said. “We have a lot of guys in the US who are running really well right now.

“It’s just a matter of time. An American’s going to come away with it. Desi almost got it. It’s going to come. It’s just a matter of time.’’

There was no question Hall was savoring his effort.

“All I know is that I’ve run a 2:04 and I have that next to my name,’’ he said. “I’m very proud of that time, regardless of what everyone else thinks. I’m a 2:04 marathoner.’’

Amalie Benjamin can be reached at abenjamin@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @AmalieBenjamin.

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