Thoughts on the 2018 Boston Marathon As Told By GIFS

By Jesse Squire

April 16, 2018

This is not a recap of today’s historic races. For that you want to read a professional writer, our own Chris Chavez, who wrote about it for Sports Illustrated.

Rather this is a collection of thoughts and reactions, as summarized by GIFs.

Linden said “It’s supposed to be hard.” Shane Flanagan tweeted: “Those were the most brutal conditions I’ve ever run in.”, and note that she’s from New England herself. The four classic literary conflicts are man versus man, man versus self, man versus nature, and man versus society. The first, (wo)man vs (wo)man, is the basic component of all competitive sport and is what most track and road races boil down to. The marathon is long enough to add in the second, (wo)man vs self. But it is in extreme weather such as we saw today that we get the third, (wo)man vs nature. That triple-decker made world champion athletes appear as though they had been through a war.

One of my friends wondered how folks from “bad weather” climates fared today as opposed to those from more reliable climates, since Kenyan and Ethiopian runners did remarkably poorly. I replied that I thought it was aggression that was severely punished today, and that is the style of today’s East African marathoners. The aggressive moves that Mamitu Daska and Geoffrey Kiriu used to build big leads by 20 miles would have made them safe winners on nearly any other day. But today’s weather was essentially Mike Tyson: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

The atrocious weather was perfect for Yuki Kawauchi, he was practically singing in the rain. He flew through the first mile and at the time it appeared insane, but it drew out the field into a pace that was suicidal given the conditions–that is, for everyone except Kawauchi. In the immediate post-race interview he said “for me, these are the best conditions possible”. He was the only elite male at the start who wore just a singlet and shorts–no jacket, arm warmers, or hat. Back on January 2 he ran a small Boston-area marathon in single-degree weather and won it in 2:18 while still wearing less clothing than some of his competitors wore today. (He also came in last; he was the only finisher.)

…and sometimes it rains. But if you don’t play, you can’t win. Kawauchi is known as the “citizen marathoner” because he works a regular job and does not take sponsorship money. It allows him the freedom to race as he likes, which is often. He’s doing another half marathon next weekend! This is a decidedly old-school way of doing things and I think it has certain advantages. Back in the 70s and earlier, college distance runners used to race a whole lot more often than they do know, at times on an every-week basis. Whereas nowadays distance runners make special efforts to record fast times, back in the day you could hit a great time just by being on the track on that one day where everything just clicked. Today was the day when everything clicked for Kawauchi, but on a more conservative racing schedule he probably would have been training instead.

Shalane Flanagan made an unscheduled stop in a port-a-john at mile 12, and Linden decided to hang back and help Flanagan get back up to the lead group. She was feeling bad at that point and was considering dropping out. That selfless move ended up helping Linden, but it’s not why she did it. She did it to be nice. You’ve had teammates who were always there for you and teammates who were only in it for themselves, and you were probably happier for the first kind of teammate when they won. Now one of those people just won arguably the biggest race in America.

If not for the stunning come-from-behind wins by popular underdogs, the story of the day would be the surprise runner-up finish by the basically unknown Sarah Sellers. Many of the rest of the top women are unknowns too. Fifth place Jessica Chichester wasn’t even in the elite women’s field and instead came out of the second corral in the mass start. Scott Douglas for Runner’s World: Unfortunately, her non-elite start means she is not eligible for the $15,000 fifth-place prize money. Oh come on, BAA!

I’m not gonna lie, I was underwhelmed when I heard that Larry Rawson was going to be part of NBCSN’s announcing crew. Rawson was once a good announcer, but these days he tends to repeat himself and make irrelevant comments. But there were many other announcers, including the experienced Al Trautwig and the always-professional Paul Swangard. The net effect was just enough Rawson–left to his own devices is when he goes down the rabbit hole–and it made the blend balanced. As for the production, it was great. The human interest stories didn’t intrude on race coverage, they made good use of split screens to cover both men and women, and no major moves were missed. This is especially remarkable given that the weather wreaked havoc with communications and camera relays and grounded the helicopter normally used for overhead shots (and bouncing camera signals to downtown Boston). It’s the best work NBC has done in a while.

Baseball fans have opening day, I have the Boston Marathon. We pine for it all winter and it still kind of feels like winter when it comes, but we know the good times are on their way. In a week or two its the Penn and Drake Relays, then conference championships, then the Pre Classic, and then it’s June and the tiki bar is open. The other thing I love about Boston is that while all major road races combine the elite, the sub-elite, and the everyday runner, the lines are a lot more blurred at the Boston Marathon. You see names of people you know that you didn’t even know were running. It was only in the comments section at Deadspin where I discovered that Andrea Alt finished 17th. She grew up right near me and ran for my alma mater, and while she was a good runner she definitely wasn’t a star who you figured for 30 seconds outside of a payday (or maybe not–see Oh come on!).

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Jesse Squire

I was second in the 1980 Olympic* long jump. (*Cub Scout Olympics, Pack 99, 9-10 age group.)