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Getting the call at ESPN

McDonough, Rawson unite

Sean McDonough and Larry Rawson will form ESPN's broadcast team for Monday's Boston Marathon (ESPN2, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.), and given the former's preparation and the latter's running experience, the telecast should be in good hands.

ESPN has been able to utilize McDonough locally this spring, assigning him to NCAA Division 1 women's basketball in Connecticut, the Frozen Four at the FleetCenter, and now the Marathon.

"In the last four months I've done football, basketball, hockey, baseball, and now the Marathon," he said. "They like my versatility and I like the variety. That's why I'm there." The Marathon fulfills the 55-event contract McDonough signed with ESPN, but the College World Series and likely some Major League Baseball loom before renewal time in September.

"I'm excited they asked me to do this [Marathon]," McDonough said. "At least they're getting a guy who knows the landmarks and can pronounce all the city and town names."

And the runners? "I'm studying them, but that's why it's reassuring to have someone with Larry's stature and experience working alongside."

The last time McDonough covered the Marathon was for the old WHDH radio, doing reports from out on the course. "One year Cleveland Circle, another at Coolidge Corner," he said.

Rawson has covered every Marathon since 1974 and, before that, trained on the Newton Hills while competing well enough as a miler at Boston College to be named to the school's athletic Hall of Fame.

Adam Culpepper, America's top qualifier for the Olympic Marathon, will be a guest analyst, and Lewis Johnson and Ann Schatz will report from along the course.

Getting a fresh start

The biggest change in Monday's race -- both for viewers and for fans along the route -- will be the separate women's start at 11:31 a.m., with the men's race rolling off as usual at noon.

"It'll be great visibility for the women," said Rawson. "It's been an amazing odyssey since Roberta Gibb stepped out of the bushes in 1966 [to run a 3:21] and Jock Semple tried to rip the number from Kathrine Switzer's shirt in 1967."

The staggered starting times should make for an interesting TV finish, too.

"In theory, the women's leaders should finish 8- to 12 minutes ahead of the men," said Rawson. "And because the leaders are so strung out at that point, the first men should be easy to spot."

"Putting all the various times on the screen is going to be a challenge," said Don Makson, who co-produces Channel 5's coverage along with Matt Smith. "It used to be that the time of day was the race time for men and women. That's not the case anymore." Add the wheelchair race and there's a three-clock problem.

Five in the booth

Channel 5 has its standard crew to cover the race: anchors Mike Lynch and Natalie Jacobson plus regular analysts Bill Rodgers, Joan Benoit Samuelson, and Marty Liquori. Rumor has it, however, that Benoit will have official duties on race day that will take up part of her time.

Jack Harper, who traditionally reports from the women's truck, quips that this will be the first time he sees the entire women's race. This year, the lead vehicle will pick up the women right from the start (they used to join the women's competition in Framingham). Ed Harding will be in the men's lead vehicle, Mike Dowling with the men's wheelchairs, and Bob Halloran with the women's wheelchairs.With the forecast for unseasonably warm weather, Makson has all three Channel 5 meteorologists on duty -- Harvey Leonard, J.C. Monahan, and Dick Albert.

In it for the long haul

WBZ Radio will be covering the race from start to finish as it follows the action for the 73d straight year. Sports director Gil Santos will be overlooking Boylston Street and the finish line from a perch in the Lenox Hotel as he covers the race for the 34th time. Tom Cuddy and returning expert Sharon Barbano will join him at the finish . . . Channel 4 and Channel 5 go head-to-head with their locally produced pool coverage of the race. Both channels make the race part of a day-long coverage package. Channels 7, 25, 38, 56, NECN et al cover the race as part of their newscasts . . . Channel 4 begins its day as Dan Rea reports from Hopkinton starting at 5 a.m. for "News in the Morning." Scott Wahle and Kerry Connolly host a special "Marathon Preview" talking with runners, fans, and officials to capture the spirit of the day. At 10:30 a.m., sports director Bob Lobel takes the anchor seat, surrounded by returning experts Switzer, Frank Shorter, Jean Driscoll, and Toni Reavis. Former race director Tim Kilduff (men's truck) and Channel 4 reporter Peg Rusconi (women's truck) will report from the course. After the winners are honored, much of the best coverage comes as Lobel freelances with guests and continues showing finishers until 4 p.m.

Bill Griffith's e-mail address is griffith@globe.com

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