Daniel Romanchuk, Manuela Schar are Marathon’s wheelchair winners
Daniel Romanchuk and Manuela Schar posted runaway victories in the Boston Marathon’s push-rim wheelchair division Monday, as the 20-year-old Romanchuk became the youngest men’s winner here while Switzerland’s Schar won her second women’s title in three years by more than seven minutes over five-time titlist Tatyana McFadden.
“This has been an amazing series,” said Romanchuk, who won the Chicago and New York races last year after finishing third in Boston.
“Winning all three majors on American soil has been wonderful. There’s just no other way to describe it.”
Romanchuk, who defeated Swiss four-time defending champion Marcel Hug, South African 10-time titlist Ernst van Dyk, and Japanese two-time champion Masazumi Soejima, bided his time on the slick early downhills and made his decisive move in the Newton hills.
“I have grown up watching them on the world stage,” said Romanchuk, who beat Soejima by nearly three minutes in 1 hour, 21 minutes, and 36 seconds to become the first American winner of the men’s division since Jim Knaub claimed his third straight title in 1993.
“It’s just incredible to be able to even push with them. It’s just amazing. Those dudes are absolutely iconic racers.”
Schar, who has won all five World Marathon Majors since Berlin last fall, destroyed the women’s field, leading by 24 seconds after 3 miles. Her time of 1:34:19 would have placed her in the top half of the male finishers, a number of whom she passed along the course.
“I learned today that you say you have ‘unfinished business,’ ” said Schar, who did not finish last year’s race amid treacherous conditions. “We say we have an ‘open bill.’ I wanted this, so I’m really happy how it turned out.”
She rocked a Bowdoin College singlet. There was Joan Benoit Samuelson again, crossing the Boston Marathon finish line.
Forty years after blazing through the field to win in an American-record 2:35:15, Samuelson set a goal to finish within 40 minutes of that time.
The 61-year-old Maine native achieved her goal, finishing in 3:04:00, with 10 minutes to spare.
“I bettered that mark by a lot,” she said. “You always want to run faster, but I can’t complain. I’m delighted to achieve that goal and delighted to be running here 40 years later.”
She said she started a bit too fast, and had to tell herself to be patient. The message was the same from Desiree Linden (fifth place) to Jordan Hasay (first among American women, third overall). Elite runners think the same way, and Samuelson is proud to have helped paved the way for today’s strong American runners.
“I think they’re very strong,” Samuelson said. “I’m delighted that Jordan and Des had such great races.”
The winner of the first-ever women’s Olympic marathon at the 1984 Los Angeles Games, Samuelson started her collegiate career at Bowdoin before transferring to North Carolina State, where she became an All-American.
Samuelson trains by cross-country skiing. For her, it is a perfect complement to running, not only helpful for her limbs, but also a social outlet.
“I had more kilometers on these legs this winter than I do miles, meaning that I’ve done more cross-country skiing than actual running to save the pounding on the roads,” Samuelson said. “There’s some more mountains I’d like to summit, and I’d like to be able to do those things with our family and friends.”
In 1979, Samuelson wore a Red Sox cap when she ran Boston. Forty years later, it was her Bowdoin singlet. She’s a proud New Englander.
And when she gets the chance to run, especially in her native region, she is game.
“The crowds were very supportive — of the singlet initially, then of me,” Samuelson said. “It was unbelievable.”
Whole new ballgame
Cedric King has something to send to the Red Sox. Just a little something to add to their hardware collection: The medal from his fifth Boston Marathon, his first handcycling.
The retired US Army Master Sergeant, who lost both legs and part of his right arm and hand when injured by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in 2012, spent time with the Sox in February during spring training and was a guest of Tony La Russa at Sunday’s game. He drew on the struggling Sox as motivation as he made his way from Hopkinton to Boston.
Although he earned his first three Boston medals running on prosthetics (“It destroys you physically,” he said) and his fourth via push-rim wheelchair, he wanted a new challenge this year. But he underestimated the challenge he faced, assuming the running training he did for a 10-miler last weekend would suffice.
“I’ve got to be honest with you — I disrespected the handcycle so bad,” said King, who finished in 2:18:14.
King said he lost track of the hill count in the Newton hills and that they “kicked my butt.”
He said at one point he was passed by a fellow handcycle athlete who was pedaling with one hand and stuck a whistle in his mouth and waved to get the crowd pumped up with the other hand.
He thought about the Sox for the entire race.
“If they’re struggling just like I’m struggling, there’s no reason for me to quit, just like there’s no reason for them to quit,” he said.
“This is a representation of me not quitting and them not quitting,” he added as he held the medal around his neck. “I don’t care even if you’re getting your butt whopped, it doesn’t give you an excuse to take a day off.”
Seven months after he lost his legs, King got his running prosthetics. He started learning to run on them the day of the marathon bombings in 2013. Watching news coverage of the tragedy on television, King decided he would somehow, someway run in the race the following year.
“And sure enough, I was there, and we ran for Martin Richard,” said King, who is the CEO of PenFed Foundation Speakers Bureau and is involved with Achilles International’s Freedom Team, which helps veterans who suffered trauma during war begin marathoning after returning home.
“This was the first time as an amputee that I did something that I didn’t think I was able to do,” he said. “For me, I will always come back to Boston for that reason right there. That is the thing that brings me back every time.
“If I’m able to be here, and I’m not somewhere speaking, this is where I’ll be at, because that race right there brings out the best in people. It kicked my butt three times running but was an eye-opener. It’s a fight that you get in. You’ve got to duke your way out of it.”
After King finished, he saw a familiar face in the massage tent. It was Lou Ann Botsford, a 13-time medical volunteer for the marathon whom King met after his first Boston race five years ago. Botsford had been looking for King every year since 2014, when she helped him recover from running his first Boston.
“I keep coming back because I meet amazing people who change my life,” said Botsford, a massage clinic supervisor at the Community College of Rhode Island.
“This is a special city,” King said. “It is.”
Breach of flag etiquette
Jack Fleming, chief operating officer of the Boston Athletic Association, issued an apology after the American flag was seen in a heap on the ground during the wreath and trophy ceremony for Romanchuk.
“We are reviewing our awards protocol to ensure that this does not happen again,” Fleming’s statement read. “The Boston Marathon has been an American tradition for more than a century, and we take pride in the passion and determination that our participants, spectators, and volunteers from around the world display at our annual event.”
The flag was on the ground behind and to the right of Romanchuk while he smiled and posed for photos with his trophy.
“Our flag is a symbol of freedom, unity, and community spirit — all of which are virtues that the [BAA] supports,” Fleming’s statement read.