Clear skies and cool conditions greeted the largest field in the history of the B.A.A. Half Marathon, presented for the fourth consecutive year in 2006 by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and The Jimmy Fund. When City of Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino fired the starting gun at 8:05 a.m. this morning, nearly 3,500 runners set out on the 13.1-mile route along Boston’s Emerald Necklace park system.
Unlike last year--when American Celedonio Rodriguez (Alamosa, CO) seized the lead in the early miles and held off Samuel Ndereba (Kenya) for the win--a large pack of six men stayed together through seven miles. At that point, as Rodriguez, Ndereba, Richard Kiplagat (Kenya), Michael Misoi (Kenya), and Peter Gilmore (San Mateo, CA) emerged from Franklin Park, Ndereba and Kiplagat began to assert themselves. Misoi and Gilmore joined them briefly, but by mile nine it was a two-man race, with Ndereba surging to the fore in the 11th mile and extending his lead to the finish.
In the women’s race, course record holder and Irish Olympian Marie Davenport (Guilford, CT / Ireland) returned to Boston where she faced a stiff challenge from newcomer Josephine Deemay (Tanzania), who had arrived in the United States for the first time.
Repeated surges failed to shake the 20-year-old Tanzanian until Davenport ultimately pulled away from her rival at mile 10. Chasing the two leaders throughout the race was Boston Marathon masters division course record holder Firaya Sultanova-Zhdanova (45, Russia), who captured the 40-and older title for the second consecutive year while also placing third overall.
Following the race, both Ndereba and Davenport were thrilled with their performances. Ndereba--the younger brother of four-time Boston Marathon Champion Catherine Ndereba--wore a huge grin as he chatted with reporters and posed for photographs with his fellow competitors. Having lost to Rodriguez by just 12 seconds in 2005, Ndereba readily admitted he’d changed his tactics for the 2006 edition of the race. “Today I had a different plan because last year the winner went fast, and we let him go . . . today we did not allow him to push the pace,” said an animated Ndereba, visibly pleased to have won the B.A.A. Half Marathon on his third attempt (in addition to placing second last year, Ndereba was sixth in 2004).
Davenport also bore a bright smile, relieved after having arrived at the race unsure of her level of fitness. After suffering through a cold and missing a workout as she prepared for today’s race, Davenport nonetheless felt strong over the final miles. As Davenport headed out of Franklin Park, much of the field was heading in, and their cheers spurred her on. “The volunteers, spectators and other participants were very supportive,” she said. “It was a great atmosphere.”
Mark Ledo and April Coughlin won their respective push rim wheelchair divisions, each defending the title they first won last year. Ledo’s victory over runner-up and two-time champion Tony Noguiera was the closest margin in that division’s history.
After the 2005 edition of the B.A.A. Half Marathon was run in cold and rainy conditions, today’s weather could not have been better. A near-full moon was still visible when the race began, and blue skies and a bright sun warmed the finish as an event-record 3,482 runners crossed the finish line in Roberto Clemente Park.
Despite flatting at approximately seven miles into the race, Mark Ledo of Canada successfully defended his men’s push rim wheelchair division title, edging Tony Noguiera of Glen Ridge, New Jersey by 18 seconds. Ledo, who also had a flat tire in last year’s race, opened up an early lead during the early miles and attempted to repair the tire, but was unable to complete the job when he bent the air valve with his inflation canister. He pushed the remaining six miles with a flat, winning with a time of 56:48 over Noguiera’s 57:06 and third place finisher Tim Kelly of Weymouth, Mass. (1:06:20). Both Noguiera (2003, 2004), who flatted at last year’s B.A.A. Half Marathon and who hold’s the B.A.A. Half Marathon course record (53:07, 2004), and Kelly (2001, 2002) are two-time race champions. It was the closest margin of victory between first and second place in divisional race history.
April Coughlin of New York also defended her title in the women’s push rim wheelchair division. Her time of 1:15:17 was an improvement on her time from last year (1:22:50).
The Boston Athletic Association, organizer of the B.A.A. Half Marathon, placed four women among the top eight finishers: Janelle Kraus, fourth; Kasie Enman, fifth; Carly Graytock, seventh; and Kimberly Nolan, eighth. The B.A.A. women’s team won its divisional team competition for the sixth consecutive year. Both Graytock and Enman have qualified for the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials-Women’s Marathon, which will be held in Boston on April 20, 2008. The B.A.A.’s combined time (3:55:05) beat runner-up Merrimack Valley Striders (4:40:59) in the 19-team field.
With its victory in the men’s team competition, the B.A.A. men matched their female counterparts in having won every open team competition (2001-2006). The five B.A.A. scorers were Jared Markowitz, Bernie Muller, Christopher Benestad, Wayne Levy, and Jonathan Fortescue in a combined time of 6:06:25, which was 43 minutes, 7 seconds better than runner-up Cambridge Running Club’s combined time of 6:49:32. Fourteen clubs fielded open division teams.
Both B.A.A. Half Marathon inaugural champions Wayne Levy and Sarah Nixon were among the top finishers in the masters division. Levy, 41, was third place in 1:14:00; Nixon, 42 and a two-time champion (2001, 2002), was fourth place in 1:28:46. Levy and Nixon are two of 151 athletes who now have competed in all six B.A.A. Half Marathon races.
Another runner who has completed every B.A.A. Half is Californian Hal Goforth, Jr. The 61-year-old resident of El Cajon is one of 35 runners who have run 25 or more Boston Marathons. Goforth ran 3:01:50 and was runner-up in the 60-and-older age division at the Boston Marathon this past April, his 29th consecutive Beantown 26.2-miler. He was also runner-up in the 60 to 69-year old division at this year’s half marathon (1:33:54). Neal Rosenthal, 60, of Pine Plains, New York was the division champion in 1:33:10.
Peter Gilmore, Graytock, and Stephanie Hodge were among the top finishers at both of the B.A.A.’s two main events this year. Gilmore was fourth at the half and seventh (2:12:45) in the marathon; Graytock was 18th (2:43:19) at the Boston Marathon; and Hodge was the second-place masters division runner (1:25:55) this Columbus Day weekend and was the 34th overall woman (sixth master) on Patriots’ Day. Gilmore also represented the B.A.A. earlier this year at the Ohme Hochi 30-kilometer Road Race in Japan, placing fourth.
Samuel Ndereba’s time (1:03:03) is tied for the fourth-fastest ever run in the B.A.A. Half Marathon. Richard Kiplagat (1:03:15) and Michael Misoi (1:04:01) added the seventh and 10th-fastest times in race history. In the women's race, Marie Davenport’s winning time of 1:12:10 was the fourth-best ever, while Josephine Deemay (1:13:17) is now #7 on that list.
Third place finisher Firaya Sultanova-Zhdanova, of Russia, is the masters division course record holder at both the B.A.A. Half Marathon (1:15:19, 2005) and the Boston Marathon (2:27:58, 2002)With a record field of finishers (3,482) in 2006, the event has a combined total of 18,282 finishers in its six-year history. Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and The Jimmy Fund were the presenting sponsors of the half marathon for the fourth year in a row. Nearly 300 Dana-Farber Runners used the event as a fundraiser. The race also benefited the Emerald Necklace Conservancy, which provides oversight and upkeep of the Emerald Necklace park system in Boston and Brookline.
There are 190 days until the 111th Boston Marathon on Monday, April 17, 2007.
- By Jack Fleming and Marc Chalufour with special thanks to Peter Brown, Jeff Staab, Bob Murdock, and Terry Shea for their contributions to the race day reporting and stories.