BY CHRIS RILEY
Tomorrow marks the annual Super Bowl of distance running, the 117th annual Boston Marathon.
Just under 30,000 runners will line up for the start in tiny Hopkinton, Mass., 26.2 miles west of the finish line near Copley Square in central Boston.
The Boston race is a premier event, both because of its status as the world’s oldest annual marathon and as a rare marathon that requires participants to meet strict qualifying standards in a recent marathon based on their age division.
Held on each Patriot’s Day – a holiday commemorating the anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord that officially began the Revolutionary War – a total of 32 runners from South Dakota are entered in this year’s race.
Leading the local charge will be Mitchell’s Thomas Madut. Madut, 26, a former standout at Sioux Falls Lincoln High School and All-American at Dakota Wesleyan, placed 46th overall last year in the event, with a clocking of 2:35:18 – a pace 5:56 per mile. That time was good enough for 26th best out of all American runners.
Another runner registered for the race is Bruce Allen of Flandreau. Allen also ran last year, finishing in 3:45:22 (5,482nd overall) before capturing the River Rat Half-Marathon title in Yankton less than two weeks later.
Thirteen of the 32 registered South Dakota runners are from Sioux Falls, with Brandon sending three runners east and Rapid City being represented by two.
Besides Madut, who will start in the first corral of the first wave with the elite men at 10 a.m., the top returning South Dakota runner from a year ago is Sioux Falls’ Ed Thomas. Thomas, 53, ran 3:34:41 last year to finish 3,687th overall, 206th in his age division.
A number of Ethiopian and Kenyan runners are expected to challenge for the men’s crown, with Jason Hartmann being the favorite for the United States after last year’s Olympic Marathon contingency of Meb Keflezighi, Ryan Hall and Abdi Abdirahman all dropped out in recent weeks due to injury or illness.
Hartmann best marathon time of 2:11:06 is more than six minutes slower than some of the African favorites.
On the women’s side, 2012 Olympians Shalane Flanagan (10th at London games) and Kara Goucher (11th at London games) will each try to become the first American female since 1985 to win Boston.
Flanagan, a Massachusetts native, along with her training partner Goucher, will also have to deal with a pack of experienced and talented runners from Eastern Africa.
Over 500,000 spectators are expected to line the 26.2 mile course along with nearly 1,000 media members – including fans who pour into Kenmore Square for the final mile from Fenway Park after watching the Red Sox play their annual Patriot’s Day morning game.