BY CHRIS RILEY
Coming from the Midwest, Matt Dewald planned to run the Boston Marathon just once and then move onto other races. But last year’s bombings at the finish line changed those plans.
“After last year’s events I want to make sure that the terrorists don’t think they can win and get the best of us,” Dewald said. “I wanted to return and support the city. I wanted to return and recapture the magical feeling that is Patriot’s Day on Marathon Monday in New England.”
Dewald, who was already finished with the race and back in his hotel by the time of the explosions last April, will toe the starting line in Hopkinton, Mass. this morning for his 10 A.M. “men’s elite” start time by virtue of his 20th place overall finish at Boston a year ago. Matt will attempt to run a personal record (PR), eclipsing his 2013 best time of 2:17:42 set at Grandma’s Marathon (Duluth) just six weeks after Boston. A time of under 2:18 will qualify him for the 2016 Olympic Trials Marathon in Los Angeles.
“My game plan is to always run by feel,” Dewald said. “I hope to PR and feel ready to, so I may be a little more aggressive with my pace than usual.”
Joining Dewald, a 2001 graduate of Yankton High School, in the 118th Boston Marathon today will be a host of other runners with local or South Dakota connections.
Flandreau’s Bruce Allen, the two-time defending champion of the River Rat Half-Marathon (traditionally run in Yankton the week after Boston), will run Boston for the third year in a row. Also making his third consecutive appearance will be Sioux Falls native Thomas Madut. Madut, who finished 46th overall in 2012, is a former All-American in the marathon for Dakota Wesleyan University following his stellar career at Lincoln High School.
In all there are 35 entries for the race from South Dakota. Thirty-two South Dakota runners were entered a year ago.
A special local connection to this year’s field is Andy Hoffman. Hoffman, who’s son Jack has gained recognition with Nebraska football through “Team Jack” will run the race today to support Team Jack’s Pediatric Neurosurgery Research Project at Boston’s Children’s Hospital. Andy’s brother Tony, Jack’s uncle, is Crofton High School’s football coach and a former Press and Dakotan sports writer and will surely lead a number fans in the region cheering on Andy’s effort for Team Jack.
The field for this year’s race is expanded well beyond the normal 27,000 runner limit to account for those who were unable to complete the race a year ago due to the bombings.
What sets the race apart from others besides its longevity is the fact that strict qualifying standards are in place. The majority of the field ran a previous marathon under a specific qualifying time based on their age and gender.
Still, it is the tradition and scenery of this race that makes it the ultimate draw for many in the distance running community. Running past Wesley College, up the Newton hills including the infamous Heartbreak Hill, and past Fenway Park and its famous Citgo sign before the final sprint to the finish down Boylston Street near Copley Square is what brings so many of the world’s best distance runners and marathon fans back year after year.
“I loved running by the colleges and through the hills, especially Heartbreak Hill near Boston College where I made my move away from the pack that I was running with,” Dewald said. “The crowds were so loud and motivating! It is a fun marathon to run because of the spectators and this year will be even better. I heard estimations of a million spectators expected for this year’s race!”