Boston to Beijing: The 2008 Women's Olympic Marathon Trials


4) Are there any dark horses?

There always are. While Kastor is the odds-on favorite, there are bound to be some surprises near the front of the pack. Two to consider, especially if it is a warm day, are Kate O'Neil and Paige Higgins. Both earned their trial qualifying times at sauna-like Chicago Marathon last fall. Thus, they would seem to be primed for much faster times in Boston and have experience if the heat is a factor. The fast-improving, 25-year-old Michelle Lilienthal brought her personal best down to 2:35 from 2:49 in a little more than a year. Turena Johnson Lane is also another name to watch. She sports a personal best of 2:34 and has international experience as a member of the U.S. team at the 2005 World Championships.

5) Can a 44-year-old make the team?

Colleen DeReuck hopes so. The 2004 Olympic Trials winner is back for another shot at the Olympic team; she has already competed in four. After having given birth to her second daughter last July, DeReuck has quickly regained the fitness she lost during her pregnancy, when she gained 38 pounds and did not run at all. "I was out of shape," she told the Boulder Camera recently. "It was hard getting back into shape. I was huffing and puffing and my face would be all red." In February however, she placed well in the U.S. cross country championships in San Diego. Anyone who takes DeReuck lightly in the trials then, will be making a mistake. She is a savvy veteran capable of employing the strategy that will be necessary to finish among the top three.

6) How many 50-year-olds will be running in the trials?

One, to be exact; the same number of runners who can boast an Olympic gold medal. Should they re-name this event the Joan Samuelson Olympic Trials Marathon? After all, here she is at 50, some 24 years after winning the first Olympic Trials marathon in 1984. That's seven Olympic Trials Marathons, an astonishing run of consistent excellence.

Although she might not be a contender for the Olympic Team, you can count on her producing a solid performance and providing inspiration to the younger marathoners in the field, as well as the thousands of fans that will be lining the route in a city in which she has had so many great performances. What kind of mark has Samuelson left on marathon running in the U.S.? A quarter-century ago she ran a world record 2:22:43 in the Boston Marathon, a time only one other runner (Kastor) has been able to match since then.

7) Will Jenny Crain provide inspiration for the runners?

Without a doubt. While Jenny (who qualified for this trials race) will not be on the starting line, she is already well on the road to victory. Last August she was critically injured by an automobile while training, leaving her in a coma for nearly a month, with life-threatening injures. Since that time she has slowly progressed in a battle to regain her health. Recently it was reported she had regained some mobility, strength and ability to communicate. The four-time Olympic Trials qualifier will be in thoughts of all of the runners at the Olympic Trials.

So, although the competition will be fierce in the race on April 20, Jenny Crain would be the first to say that there are a lot more important things than making the Olympic team. Still, although the runners will not have to scale the famed hill, there is sure to be heartbreak in Boston on April 20. There will also be unbridled joy for three talented marathoners, who will have earned one of the most coveted prizes in long distance running?a place on the Olympic marathon team.

Don Allison can be reached at don-allison@comcast.net. For more info on the 2008 Women's Olympic Marathon Trials, go to www.bostontrials2008.com.

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