South African wheelchair athlete Ernst van Dyk won the Boston Marathon last Monday, 20 April, to continue a remarkable record of success in the prestigious race. It was his eighth win in nine years.
The Boston Herald, in its report on the race, appropriately headlined its story “Van Dyk an eighth wonder”. He won his first Boston Marathon in 2001 and since then has taken victory every year except for 2007, when he finished in third place.
His time of one hour, 33 minutes and 29 seconds was his slowest winning time yet – a long way off his amazing world record time of one hour, 18 minutes and 27 seconds in 2004 – but a strong headwind put paid to any thoughts of a fast race.
Van Dyk’s victory, nonetheless, pulled him level with Irishwoman Jean Driscoll’s record of eight victories in the Boston Marathon. Driscoll won the race from 1990 to 1996 and again in 2000.
He moved clear of his challengers after about five kilometres, but the ever increasing strength of the wind concerned the South African star, whose preparations for the race had been hampered by injuries, as well as by the birth of a daughter.
Van Dyk remained strong, however, and went on to claim victory by over three minutes over 2007 champion, Masazumi Soejima of Japan, who finished in one hour, 36 minutes and 57 seconds.
The Japanese star said after the race that he had been troubled by the wind, and vowed to put on weight so that he could challenge the heavier Van Dyk.
Spain’s Roger Paigbo Verdaguer finished 50 seconds later in 1:37:47, while former South African Krige Schabort, now an American citizen, was the top local racer, ending in fourth place in 1:38:06.
The 36-year-old Van Dyk, who won gold in the road race at the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games, says he will contest the Boston Marathon at least one more time; he wants to be the sole owner of the most victories in the history of the event.
Colleen De Reuck
Colleen de Reuck, who competed in three Olympic Games for South Africa, including the marathon in 1992 and 2000, before becoming an American citizen, excelled in the Masters division of the women’s marathon.
Now 45 years of age, De Reuck led the race until eight kilometres from the end. She eventually settled for eighth place in a time of 2:35:37, a minute and 13 seconds ahead of the second Masters’ finisher Alina Ivanova of Russia, who finished in tenth place.
Victory in the women’s race went to Kenya’s Salina Kosgei in 2:32:16. Ethiopia’s Dire Tune finished just a second behind her, while third place went to the USA’s Kara Goucher a further eight seconds back.
Deriba Merga of Ethiopia, fourth in the Beijing Olympics, captured the men’s title in 2:08:42. Kenya’s Daniel Rono finished in second place 50 seconds later, while Ryan Hall of the USA took third place eight seconds later.
The Boston Marathon is the world’s oldest annual marathon, having first been held in 1897, and it is also one of the world’s most famous races. It regularly attracts fields of about 20 000 competitors, but the record is almost double that at 38 000 in the centenary year of the race.
Wheelchair competition in the Boston Marathon began in 1975, when one entrant entered and completed the race.