It may seem more like Death Valley than Commonwealth Avenue today as 2183 qualified runners and countless unofficial crashers battle high temperatures and muggy heat in the Boston Athletic Association's 80th Marathon.
If the weather is anything like it was yesterday, the marathon field faces a scorching 26 miles and 385 yards starting in the small town of Hopkinton and ending in front of the Prudential Tower on Hereford Street.
The winning time should drop off from Bill Rodgers' record-setting 2:09.55 last year. Rodgers and the two runnerups last Patriot's Day, Steve Hoag and Tom Fleming, have decided to forego the Marathon to compete in the U.S. Olympic trials on May 22nd. Those defections, and the summer-like heat, make it doubtful that an American will capture first place in Boston's most unique sporting event.
The early favorite has been track's answer to George Blanda, 43-year-old Jack Foster. Foster, a New Zelander, has a 2:11 marathon to his credit in the past, but with steep Heartbreak Hill looming and with the projected tropical temperatures, look to the runners from warmer climes--the South Americans and Africans.
Harvard In On the Run
Harvard will not be left out at the starting line today. Both qualified marathoners (those who have run the distance in under 3 hours to meet the new BAA qualifications) and courageous marathon crashers will participate.
Mike Bromwich earned his official "765" by posting a 2:55 in San Diego's Mission Bay Marathon in January. The Quincy House senior took up running seriously after a bout of mono.
Bill Kraus, a junior in Lowell, is no newcomer to the Boston Marathon--he ran a 2:36 last year to automatically get "410" for today's race. Kraus, a Harvard cross country runner, said yesterday he thought the heat would be a big factor.
"It's going to slow the race down a great deal," he said. "I hope everyone's careful in the heat."
Two recent graduates will also attempt to cover the 26 miles: Dirk Skinner '75 ("R 78," a 2:40 in the Philadelphia Road Runner Club Marathon) and Bob Pinkas '75 ("543," a 2:57.20 in the Jersey Shore Marathon.)
Pinkas said he didn't think the new BAA qualifications meant anything. "No one will be discouraged," he said. "I was going to run whether I qualified or not."
One Harvard undergraduate who didn't qualify will do just that. Greg Schell, a senior in Leverett, ran officially the last two years but now will run as a crasher. Schell said he was more concerned with his thesis this year than in qualifying.
Schell will don his high school track uniform of blue and white and lace up blue and yellow Tiger shoes and join thousands of others in the 80th B.A.A. Marathon.