By: James O’Brien
If one had to come up with one thing to make Boston Marathon weekend even better, it
could only be … more races! So, that’s what the organizing Boston Athetic Association did.
Better yet, they made the series of invitational road miles – instigated in 2009 – even more
alluring by drawing the fields for the middle school and scholastic races from the eight
cities and towns along the Boston Marathon course. Icing on the cake, were the world
class athletes who arrived to contest the elite men’s and women’s races.
Chilly temperatures and a steady drizzle did nothing to minimize the intensity of the
competition which generated as much heat among the hundreds of vocal spectators in
the bleachers as it did on the slick, three lap course – starting on Boylston Street near the
Marathon finish line, and finishing at the famed line itself.
From the first boys’ event of the day, the Boy’s Middle School 1000m – an addition to the
program this year and abbreviated in deference to the age group (6th to 8th grade) – the
competitive standard of the day was evident. Jamal Forrest from Framingham hammered
off the starting line and stayed aggressive all the way around the first lap, passing under
the finish banner and taking the bell with 1:23 on the clock. The field in his wake was far
from intimidated, though. As Forrest began to feel the effects around the second lap, Alcy
Torres, Andrew Rogers and Caleb Winn edged their way to the forefront, setting the
stage for a blistering charge to the line in the final 60m straight. As the leaders took the
final left turn off of Exeter Street and on to Boylston, Winn injected a surge that was
unanswerable. Gaining ground with each passing meter, the rangy Natick resident
crossed the line in 3:10.5. Torres took second in 3:12.6 and Rogers third in 3:13.5.
Forrest, the early leader, faded in the final stages, ultimately walking across the line in
The Boy’s Scholastic Mile (grades nine to 12) was similarly intense. Ben Groleau from
Framingham took the lead from the gun, but he was closely shadowed at every step by
Ezra Lichtman and Yuji Wakimoto, both from Newton. With one lap completed and two
remaining, and a split of 1:36, Groleau still held the lead, though with his two shadows
still paying very close attention. One may have felt that Groleau, always the aggessor,
was setting the scene for his own demise. One may have felt that; one may have been
wrong. Around the second lap, things changed little. The clock showed a split of 3:12 and
the leaders held tight formation. Closest to the action was Tim Robinson from Wellesley,
eight meters back; but, with only one lap remaining, for him to get on terms with the
frontrunners would have taken a super-human effort.
At the front of the field, Groleau looked composed and in control. While Wakimoto and
Lichtman may have held hopes of denying him once the finish line came into sight for the
final time, Groleau was not about to let it slip from his grasp when it mattered most. As
the finish line swept into sight, he lifted his stride and injected a kick to which nobody had
an answer. As he broke the finish tape, his time of 4:40.3 gave him almost a one second
advantage on Lichtman (4:41.1) who was comfortably ahead of Wakimoto (4:43.7).
The Elite Men’s Mile held all the drama that one would expect when a gang of world class
middle distance men get together to compete for a $3000 first place prize. Though the
slick under-foot conditions gave some cause for concern, none of that was evident as the
group of seven launched themselves away from the starting line and into the first turn.
Markos Geneti from Ethiopia inched his way to the forefront, but it was with no daylight
over field, which held close through the first lap, passed in 1:28.
It was all parry and thrust around lap two, though with no decisive moves, and the entire
field held tight as they passed beneath the finish line with 2:51 on the clock. At that stage,
Great Britain’s Mark Draper held the lead, but it was by the width of one of his shoelaces.
With just one to go and everything to race for, it was a high speed waiting game.
It was only in the home straight that matters were definitively decided, which seems to be
the way it should be in a road mile of this caliber. Charging into the straight, Geneti held
the lead, but with Great Britain’s Andrew Baddeley, winner of the 2009 Fifth Avenue Mile,
immediately on his shoulder. In the straight, they were so close that the two leaders
bumped; but, these things happen at high speed. Geneti charged hard for the tape, but
Baddeley was the man with the wheels. As they fought for the line, the Briton eked a
distinct advantage, stopping the clock at 4:08.6 to the Ethiopian’s 4:08.8. Ireland’s Alistair
Cregg took third in 4:09.04.
As a warm up for the following day’s Boston Marathon, the BAA Invitational Miles could
hardly have been better. Superb competition across all age groups, a finish beneath an
iconic banner, in front of a hoard of enthusiastic spectators – it’s a familiar formula, and a
perfect preamble for the world’s most celebrated marathon.