2003 US Women's Marathon Championship
Yesterday had to be one of my best days ever as a running fan, even though
it was very long and tiring. Hmm, let's start from the beginning.
Slim got me to the finish area to check in at the press tent at about 5:50 or so because I was told I should check in by 6:00 if I wanted a chance to ride in the press truck. When we got there, it turned out they didn't have space on the press truck. When I saw what the press truck was, though, I wasn't crushed. It was nothing but a pickup truck that a few people jumped in the back of. I was much happier out on the course than I would have been in the back of that truck.
It was a cold and windy day. Temps in the 30s, probably high 30s, and some strong wind. I'm not sure what the direction was but it was pretty strong at points.
At around 6:30, we got a ride up to the start area, at the Washington University track. The runners came out about 20 minutes before the start and were warming up some on the track. After the National Anthem, the runners were off. Almost 4 full laps on the track, where you could already see Colleen De Reuck taking control but with Jeanne Hennessy, Kelly Keane, and a couple of other runners right with her.
The next time I saw them was about 6 miles. De Reuck was already pulling away from the competition, running what we figured to be around 5:30s-5:40s pace. Hennessy was still holding second, Sara Wells and Keane were running together in third and fourth but Wells looked in control, with Keane looking like she was just hanging on. Stacie Alboucrek was in fifth, with Kelly Flathers shortly behind in sixth.
Next time around, I saw them at about 12.5 miles and again at the half marathon. De Reuck cruised through the half in about 1:14:40, looking like she was in control. Wells moved into second and was also looking strong and in control. Keane had third but lost contact with Wells. Hennessy was in fourth but you could already see she was fading. Flathers and Alboucrek were running together in fifth and sixth.
Next time I saw them was just past 16.5 miles. De Reuck had about a 1:00 lead on Wells and nobody else was even close. It was down to a 2 woman race. Then, just before 19 miles, they came by again and De Reuck had a 1:25 lead on Wells. I commented that Wells was looking good and could make a race out of this. Someone said De Reuck had opened up 25 seconds on Wells in the last 2.5 miles, he thought it was over. I said I don't know, Wells is looking very strong. I just had a feeling she could at least make a race out of it. I don't know why for sure I had that feeling but I just had this gut feeling the race wasn't over. We saw them go by again just before 20 and it was pretty much the same.
A little ways past 23, I watched the first two go by again before making a dash for the finish line. Wells had closed the gap to about 1:00 and she still looked strong, while De Reuck was showing some signs of fatigue. In fact, you could see that she was slowing and her form was faltering.
On to the finish, where updates were being given over the PA system. Wells was gaining quickly, while De Reuck was struggling badly. At about 25 miles, Wells made the pass. She went on to win in 2:35, with De Reuck coming in at 2:37. At the finish, one thing I kept thinking is I've never seen so many elite runners struggling so much. I lost count of how many collapsed after crossing the finish line, it was obvious how much almost every runner was struggling greatly coming in. With some stiff winds and only 30 runners finishing, the conditions were just too much for almost everyone.
After the race, De Reuck had to be taken away in an ambulance. The report in this morning's St. Louis paper is that her body temperature had dropped to 86. She was at the awards dinner that evening and looked OK, so hopefully no long term problems. After the race and at the dinner, I asked a few runners what they thought of the course. Without exception, they liked the course. One commented that she liked the fact that she knew what was coming up at every point on the course after completing the first lap. Others commented that it increased crowd support since they would go by the same spectators multiple times.
I managed to meet up with an online acquaintance after the race and we talked for a few moments. Slim and I also talked with Darren De Reuck for a little time and Lisa Vaill for quite some time, I also listened in on an interview with Sara Wells. They all had some interesting things to say.
At the dinner that evening, Slim and I met up with my online friend again and we had an interesting conversation during dinner. After dinner and the awards, we talked with Sara for a while, then ended up having another long conversation with Lisa. The dinner was as fun as the race, talking with these great runners and really getting to know them, to see how great of people they are, and to just to get an idea of some of their views.
I can't wait to go back there next year for the Olympic Trials!