- The Washington Times - Monday, April 16, 2007

BOSTON — Only one topic received more attention during the past several days than Deena Kastor’s attempt to become the first American to win the Boston Marathon since 1985:

The nor’easter headed into Beantown.

“There will be a race at 10 a.m. on Monday morning,” race director Dave McGillivray said firmly Saturday, responding to rumors today’s scheduled 111th Boston Marathon would be canceled or postponed because of forecasted torrential cold rains and heavy gusting winds.

“In the past [in the heat] we’ve said, ‘Hose the runners.’ It’s ‘house the runners’ this year,” said Tom Grilk, president of the Boston Athletic Association, which organizes the race.

Weather has never postponed or canceled the race, even with snow squalls in 1925, 1961 and 1967 and heavy cold rain in 1970. A few airlines, such as JetBlue, already were canceling flights yesterday, making it difficult for some marathoners to get to Boston. Many entrants are not planning on running.

If the weathermen are correct, the only athlete in the field destined to stay dry will be Sunita (Suni) Williams, a 41-year-old Boston Marathon qualifier and NASA astronaut from Needham, Mass., who is planning on running the 26.2-mile race on a treadmill aboard the International Space Station at the same time as the field of 23,500 runners on earth some 200 miles below. The field is the second largest to the nearly 40,000 in the 100th running in 1996.

“By the time the winners cross the finish line, we will have orbited the Earth at least once,” Williams said from space Saturday. The idea was the brainchild of Naval Academy grad and former elite runner Ronnie Harris of Annapolis.

On Earth, the 34-year-old Kastor will try to overcome the weather and a tough women’s field.

Kastor comes into the world’s oldest annual marathon having run the world’s fastest marathon last year. She earned the No. 1 ranking by Track & Field News for her remarkable 2:19:36 win in London, where she also improved her existing American record. Her fall marathon in New York City was high in expectation but low in execution, and she finished a disappointing seventh in 2:26:58.

She started 2007 by dominating at the USA Cross Country Championships in Boulder, Colo., in February.

“Five and a half years after my first marathon, I am finally running Boston,” said Kastor, the 2004 Olympic marathon bronze medalist who lives in California but was born in Waltham, Mass.

“Boston has always been in the heart and soul of probably every marathoner out there,” Kastor said. “It seems that it’s the icon in this sport, the race that everybody strives to get qualifiers for, to be a part of. So it’s always been in the back of my mind. And this year, after last year breaking the 2:20 barrier, it seemed very easy to choose to choose Boston this year and in hopes of trying to win that.”

The marathon also serves as the 2007 USA Women’s Marathon Championship, which will be used to finalize the U.S. team for this year’s IAAF World Championships in Osaka, Japan.

Returning are defending champion Rita Jeptoo of Kenya and Latvia’s Jelena Prokopcuka. Jeptoo, 26, won here last year in 2:23:38, while Prokopcuka, 30, has won the New York Marathon each of the past two years and has a strong history at Boston, placing fourth in 2004 and second in 2006.

Also back to defend is Kenya’s Robert Cheruiyot, who set the race record last year with his triumph in 2:07:14 and went on to win Chicago despite a fall at the finish. Compatriots Robert Cheboror and Benjamin Maiyo have the only two faster entry times. Kenyans have won 14 of the past 16 men’s titles at Boston and six of the past seven Boston women’s crowns.

Each winner will receive $100,000 from a total prize money purse of $575,000. Expect the weather to be the great equalizer.

Breaking tradition for the first time in race history, officials decided to start Wave 1 of the race at 10 a.m. with Wave 2 at 10:30. The inaugural Boston Marathon, held in 1897, began at 12:19 p.m., and the race traditionally began at noon in the 109 races that followed. Among the benefits: In warm years, runners would enjoy cooler temperatures, and towns along the course now can reopen roads to vehicular traffic earlier on Patriots’ Day Monday.

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