Boston time worth more than a hill of beans

April, 19, 2011
Count me among the ignoramuses who didn't know until about 24 hours ago that records set in the Boston Marathon wouldn't be world records. But, international track and field authorities will only sanction marks set on courses that don't have too much of an overall elevation drop or that are, at least roughly, loops.

The point-to-point layout of the Boston course means runners can get a turbo-boost from tailwinds, which were blowing merrily Monday when Kenyans Geoffrey Mutai, who won in 2 hours, 3 minutes, 2 seconds, and Moses Mosop (2:03:06) covered 26.2 miles faster than any men had before. Ryan Hall's 2:04:58 peeled 40 seconds off the American mark. But none of it counts for the ages, and as a writer who cherishes the straightforward, I dread having to craft the mandatory sentence or two of ponderous explanation next time an actual world record is set.

Intellectually, I understand the concept that you shouldn't be able to set a world record running downhill from a mountaintop. There has to be a line drawn somewhere. But how can one of the most historic, prestigious and most difficult marathons in the world be outside the statistical barbed wire? Isn't it illogical that a course that includes the most famous climb in distance racing -- Heartbreak Hill -- is adjudged to have too much downhill for the record books? Isn't this thicket of regulations rather off-putting to the average fan, and wouldn't the sport like to attract more of those?

We may not have to ponder this scenario very often. What happened Monday was a once-in-a-generation event, or perhaps rarer than that. According to the race account by the Boston Globe's eminent Olympic sports writer John Powers, no man had logged a world best in Boston since 1947.

A couple other good explainers can be found in the Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.

But the storylines for American running -- great performances from Hall, women's runner-up Desiree Davila and new mom Kara Goucher -- are valid no matter what gets carved into the stone tablets of record-keeping.

Bonnie D. Ford

Enterprise and Olympic Sports
Bonnie D. Ford is a senior writer for



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