Meb Keflezighi and Ryan Hall aren’t the only American runners with big plans for Monday’s Boston Marathon.
Written By: Mario Fraioli
Sharing a table with Meb Keflezighi at the pre-race media conference at the Fairmont Copley Plaza on Friday morning, Antonio Vega and Josh Rohatinsky looked a little bored.
“It’s kind of nice to just sit back and not really have any pressure on me,” said Vega, the US half marathon champion. “I just need have a good race and do what I can on Monday. That’s how I’m going into it.”
With all the hype – and media – surrounding Keflezighi and Ryan Hall before Monday’s Boston Marathon, some of the lesser known American runners like Vega, Rohatinsky and Jason Lehmkuhle have managed to slip under the radar and quietly go about business as usual before their biggest race of the year.
“It’s going to be good to be able and go out there the next few days and especially on Monday and focus on what I’ve been preparing to do,” added Rohatinsky. “I just need to go out there and do what I know I can do.”
“In a way, I don’t envy the kind of pressure that guys like Ryan and Meb get,” admitted Lehmkuhle, who finished 10th at last fall’s New York City Marathon. “In a way, it’s nice to be able to come to a large race like this knowing that anything I do is kind of going to be under the radar.”
Vega, a member of Team-USA Minnesota, opened some eyes in January with a surprising victory at the US Half Marathon Championship in Houston. He followed that up with a third place finish at the Gate River Run 15K last month and believes a solid winter of unconventional indoor preparation has left him ready to take a good-sized chunk of time off his marathon best of 2:15:45 on Monday.
“I did a lot of my long runs in the winter from January through early March on the treadmill,” Vega said. “I think that marathon stuff I’ve done on the treadmill has really paid off quite a bit and has helped me to work on maintaining pace and staying mentally tough for an extended period of time.”
Lehmkuhle, who has a 2:12:54 personal best to his credit, is hoping to bounce back from a bad Boston experience in 2007, where he finished in 2:38:05. This time around, he and coach Dennis Barker have emphasized specific hill sessions to prepare for the unforgiving ups and downs that this fabled course has to offer.
“I knew very early on in the race that I didn’t do enough stuff specifically on the hills to replicate what was going to go on here,” Lehmkuhle said of his previous Boston experience. “I learned a lot from that mistake and feel like we’ve done a much better job in this buildup to prepare my legs to handle it.”
Rohatinsky, running in his third marathon on Monday, admittedly has “two or three different plans” for race day, but is committed to keeping the lead pack in sight through 16 miles and having fresh legs when he hits the hills in Newton. He is excited to be part of a strong American contingent and hopes his efforts on Monday can help contribute to an impressive US showing.
“The field is really a lot deeper than they’ve had in a long time here,” Rohatinsky said. “It would be really cool to team up with Antonio, Jason, Ryan and Meb and help the Americans make a good showing and maybe put 4 or 5 guys in the top 10.”
Vega shared a similar sentiment, hoping that he some of the other unheralded Americans can work together on Monday and collectively contribute to a solid showing for the hometown boys on Patriots Day.
“Hopefully there’s a good group of us going around the same pace,” Vega said. “I hope that with Jason and Josh and a couple other guys, we can get together for at least the first half of the race and go from there.”
So with the weight of winning resting on the shoulders of superstars Keflezighi and Hall, can the other Americans step out of the shadows on Monday and help the United States put 4 or 5 runners amongst the top 10?
“I know that’s certainly a goal of mine,” Lehmkuhle added. “I don’t think it’s unrealistic for us expect to see 4 or 5 Americans in the top ten, similar to what happened in New York last year. I know that’s certainly a goal of mine, and I know that’s what Antonio’s thinking as well.”