An Anniversary Year for Women at the Boston Marathon

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Monday is the Boston Marathon - the popular 26.2 mile race that takes place annually on Patriots Day. It has been 40 years since the first official field of women ran the Boston Marathon and a lot has changed in the world of women's sports since then.

Bobbi Gibb was the first woman to complete the Boston Marathon in 1966 (although  technically she bandited the race).The first woman to officially enter and complete the race was Kathrine Switzer in 1967 who entered under the gender neutral name of K.V. Switzer. When race director Jock Semple discovered that "K.V." was a woman, he tried to forcibly remove her from the course before he was hit with a body block by the runner's boyfriend.

Watch Kathrine Switzer on PBS. See more from Makers: Women Who Make America.

It was not until the 1972 Boston Marathon that women could become official entrants due to a change in AAU rules. That year, Nina Kuscsik was the first official female champion beating the other seven women with a time of 3:10:26. As part of this year's festivities, Kuscsik and the rest of the "Class of 1972" will be the official starters of the 2012 women's race, and they'll also be honored at the expo and the Champions' Breakfast the Saturday before the marathon, according to the Milford Daily News.

Times certainly have changed. Last year, 43 percent of Boston Marathon entrants were women and their times have only gotten faster over the years. So will records be broken in 2012?  Russian’s Galina Bogomolova comes in with the fastest seed time of 2:20:47 but it was from Chicago 2006 and appears to be a nonfactor in the race.

All eyes will be on return champion, Caroline Kilel. Kilel took victory in a PR of 2:22:36. She returned to Boston in the summer to win the BAA 10K and took third at the Lisbon Half. She most recently was second in a sprint finish in the Houston half marathon with a time of 1:08.28.

Who will rise up to challenge Kilel? Her main competitor from last year, Desiree Davila is off training for the Olympic marathon.  Third and fourth from last year do return - both  Sharaon Cherop and Caroline Rotich are running.  Cherop stayed close until the final miles last year and maybe this year will be able to move with the surges. Cherop is coming off a third place finish at the World Championships in the marathon and a PR in the Dubai marathon in January with a 2:22.39. Rotich recently finished 8that the NYC Half marathon in 1:10:17 which was 2 minutes slower than her winning time last year.

Kilel's main competitor might just be 2011 New York City Marathon winner Firehiwot Dado where she ran a 2:23:15. In early March, she most recently won the NYC Half marathon with a course record of 1:08:35. She won in the last 600 meters where she slipped passed Kim Smith, hitting 10K en route in 32:00.13.

Multiple Boston winner Bill Rodgers has been quoted as saying, “Boston is a course you need to do many times before you get the hang of it.” This might just play into Kilel’s favor. The course is hilly and quick.  Last year’s race was lead quickly out by Kim Smith who would ultimately drop out. By mile 17, a group of four runners: two Kenyans and two Ethiopians had separated from the rest of the pack. But by mile 20, Davila had made her way back to the group. Davila tried to drop the whole group but could not shake Kilel.  This year’s race could seem a very similar situation with a small group left at the end to out surge each other.

The American field is not as strong as it has been in recent years. The two that seem to lead the field are Mary Akor & Camille Herron.  Mary Akor holds a PR of 2:33:50 and has been the women's winner at Grandma's Marathon twice. Camille Herron has a PR of 2:37:14 and has victories at the Dallas White Rock, Napa Valley, and Mississippi Blues Marathons. 

Late last year the IAAF, marathon's governing body, took a controversial turn and ruled that records in women’s road racing will count only when earned in women’s-only events. The rule, however, is not retroactive, keeping in place Paula Radcliffee’s 2:15:25 women’s marathon world record in mixed competition at the 2003 London Marathon and Deena Kastor’s 2:19:36 American record in mixed competition at the 2006 London Marathon. Still, the new rule continues to stir debate.

Any predictions from readers this year? Are there any bloggers running Boston? Would love to have your bib numbers so we can follow you.

@womentalksports
changing the conversation
www.womentalksports.com

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