Van Dyk, Hunkeler are second to none
Ernst Van Dyk rolls up Heartbreak Hill in Newton on the way to his Men's wheelchair win. (Globe Staff Photo / Bill Greene)
Men's wheelchair winner Ernst Van Dyk, a 33-year-old South African, is not just a six-time Boston Marathon defending champion, he's also a traveling man, a real traveling man.
Van Dyk registered a time of 1 hour 25 minutes and 29 seconds yesterday for a healthy victory over countryman Krige Schabort (1:29:04) and Canadian Kelly Smith (1:29:34). For the sixth straight time, he was a blur over the chilly course.
Van Dyk also is an ironman of sorts. Last weekend he won the wheelchair title in Paris, next weekend he'll compete in London, and in two weeks he'll race in Korea.
''I like it," said Van Dyk. ''I won in Paris, and to be honest with you I get recharged in about 48 hours, and after 72 hours, I feel I'm at full strength. London may be a bit tougher because of its field, but I'll give it my best shot. And the same goes for Korea.
''I admit the travel gets me down a bit, but I'm OK after a month on the road. But after that I'm beat. After Korea, I'll go home and take it easy for a month with some training and then I'll be back in top form.
''I compete almost every week back home. It's the nature of wheelchair racing."
Women's winner Edith Hunkeler of Switzerland didn't have it quite as easy as Van Dyk, though she ended up winning in a breeze (1:43:42). Her competition early was from Canada's Diane Roy (1:48:52) and American Shirley Reilly (1:53:44). Hunkeler and Roy were neck-and-neck until the halfway mark, before Hunkeler took the lead for good and picked up good yardage every mile.
Hunkeler is no stranger to Boston. She won here in 2002, was second in 2004 and 2001 (by four seconds to Louise Sauvage), and third in 2003 and 1999. She didn't race here last year.
Van Dyk was in complete command, blowing away his opposition early. But he never relaxed.
''I know this course very well, and I enjoy it," he said. ''It's very special for me because I set the world record here in 2004, and this is the best marathon in the world as far as I'm concerned.
''I love this course and I hope to win here again for a seventh, eighth, ninth, and 10th time. I'm young and in pretty good shape and will be here again and again.
''But today, as always, I was concerned. When you're behind in a race, you can see the leaders and you know where you are and what you are all about. But when I'm in front, I don't know exactly where my opponents are. I have to stress being more focused on the task in hand.
''Really, I can feel pressure when leading. If I let up, I can be caught. So it's a case of pushing hard all the way and never letting up. My opponents work just as hard as I do, and I respect them all the time."
Schabort said, ''I've had a few seconds here and can't complain. Ernst is a great racer and I'm very proud to have finished second.
''I pushed very hard at the end of the race to finish second."
Smith, who was 30 seconds behind Schabort in third, said, ''This, I thought, was a very strong field and Ernst is the class of the field."
Hunkeler made her move at the 25K mark and was in command after that.
''I'm very happy and very surprised," she said. ''I really didn't expect to win. In the early stages, Diane pushed me really hard and I felt I had to push harder and harder."
Roy said, ''Edith is a fine competitor. I felt good keeping up with her as long as I did, but she simply had more than I did. I made every attempt to catch her, but I didn't have that extra energy."
Third-place finisher Reilly beamed, ''This was my first marathon here, and I'm elated. My time wasn't the greatest, but I had fun and I can't wait to compete here next year."
Hunkeler doesn't race full time.
''In Switzerland, everyone works a regular job," she said. ''My regular job is as a secretary and I train on my own time."