Since the recent announcement that Kara Goucher, arguably the best distance runner in the United States right now, is running April’s Boston Marathon, the running world shifts their eyes to Boston. With the Reebok Boston Indoor Games, US Indoor National Championships, Nike Indoor Nationals, and the Boston Marathon all coming up in the next year, thousands of great runners will make a trek to Boston in hopes of setting PR’s and winning races.
Reebok’s Boston Indoor Games, BIG for short, will begin Boston’s year of excellence in running with a show filled with Olympic medalists. Held at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center, the games have already signed three stars: pole vaulters’ Steven Hooker of Australia (Gold) and Jenn Stuczynski of the United States (Silver), as well as Nick Willis (Bronze) for the 1500. The games will likely be one of the best indoor meets in the world for 2009. In past years, stars like Craig Mottram, Tirunish Dibaba, and the great Haile Gebreselassie have made stops in Boston for this meet; more recently, Meserat Defar ran her record 3,000 meter just last year. And always a thriller, the high school Invitational Mile promises to be another highly anticipated event (which last year was won by Oregon’s Luke Puskedra).
Following the BIG, the US Indoor Nationals will draw the next pack of fans and athletes to Boston. Known as the “world’s oldest indoor track championship,” the Indoor Nationals was the meet that all Bostonians could watch the US’ stars of running up close. Last year, many athletes won gold at “the Reggie” before they went on to Beijing as Olympians. Matt Tegenkamp, Nick Symmonds, Christian Cantwell, and Lolo Jones were among the winners, and hopefully, this year will bring more success. Only time will tell who will compete for gold this year, but judging by the past, the times will be incendiary, despite the cold temps and possibilities of snow in Boston.
Now down to the high school level: the Nike Indoor Nationals. For the first time since 1999, when the games where hampered with snow, the nations best high schoolers will face off. Citing the choice of “the Reggie” for it’s “banked track and excellent surface,” Executive Director of the National Scholastic Sports Foundation Jim Spier was excited for the upcoming switch (from the Prince Georges Sports and Learning Complex in Landover, MD). If Solomon Haile, winner of the Foot Locker Cross Country Championship, returns to the 5K (where he won the race last year), a new record could be set. As a high school runner myself (though not as fast as Haile or the NIN finalists), I cannot wait to see the stars of the nation’s high school scene come to my “home” track. The future of track and field will be shining at Nike Indoor Nationals.
Lastly, and surely the biggest of all – the Boston Marathon. With its 22,000 plus participants and great history, the marathon is looked forward by all. This year is especially big though. Guy Morse, the Executive Director of the B.A.A., and John Hancock have put together arguably the event’s best field ever. In early December, Ryan Hall, the Olympic Trials winner, fastest American born marathoner, and 10th place finisher in the Olympic marathon, signed on to run the 26.2 mile course from Hopkinton to Boston. In addition to Hall, Kara Goucher, also an olympian and World Championship bronze medalist has signed on to run. Part of Nike’s Oregon Project, coached by former Boston champ Alberto Salazar, Goucher set an American debut record at November’s ING New York City Marathon (2:25:53). Goucher is coming off an amazing track season, where she qualified for both the 5K and 10K in Beijing. Will this be the first year since 1983 when two American’s sweep first place? That will be tough, though, since four time defending champion Robert Cheruiyot will be returning. Cheruiyot missed the Beijing games, but is eager to return to Boston. Will his return come with a record fifth win, or will Hall spoil the home coming? Again, only time will tell. My biased prediction for April 20: Hall and Goucher For The Win. (Kara is my celebrity crush, and Hall is my second favorite male runner, only behind Pre.)
Obviously, Beantown will not change its name to “Track Town” any time soon; we will leave the name in Eugene. But, with these four events coming up in 2009, anticipation and great races are assured to be a plenty. As a running fan and enthusiast, I am in heaven. With great fields being set up and the starter’s pistol beginning to load, runners all over the east – make that all over the nation – will eye Boston as next year’s track Mecca.