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NER Race of the Year

B.A.A. Half
Marathon‰ÛÓEvent With An Emerald Twinkle

 

by Jean Cann
 
(Runners on the Emerald Necklace, photo by Victah Sailer/photorun.net)

 

The B.A.A. Half Marathon, established in 2001, has quickly
become a New England favorite for its superb organization and scenic Emerald
Necklace course, as well as popular distance. While the B.A.A. name alone
attracts a crowd, many positive attributes of the race have helped it prosper
and grow annually. Registration for the 2011 race reached the 7,000 runner
field limit within four hours. For the qualities that make it a top choice of
runners from New England and beyond, New
England Runner
magazine has designated the B.A.A. Half Marathon its “2011
Race of the Year.”

 

The event’s field size and number of finishers has expanded
each year, with 2,517 finishers the first year and 5,179 in 2011.

 

Forty competitors have completed all 11 B.A.A. Half Marathons.
One of those runners, Wayne Levy, won the inaugural race, took the masters title
in 2005 and topped the 45-49 age group in 2011. “The
race has always had a special meaning to me,” said Levy, who works in Boston
and competes for the B.A.A. Running Club. “Even when I wasn’t really fit,
I went and ran the race. My fellow B.A.A. teammates always teased me and
asked, ‰Û¢Are you running your race again?’ Knowing that this is an
important race for the B.A.A., I also felt compelled to support the club by
running.”

 

The support of Levy and other club
members has helped the B.A.A. capture the men and women’s team titles every
year.

 

Even as a master’s runner, Levy,
46, has often scored for the open men’s team, as recently as 2010. “I am not
sure how long I will be able to continue,” he said. “Streaks are a funny
thing. They require a great deal of luck. You have to hope you are
not injured, not sick, and not traveling for work. I do consider myself
fortunate and lucky. After saying all that, I do hope to continue the
streak for a long time.”

 

Inaugural women’s winner Sarah Nixon returned to win in
2002. “I remember crossing the finish line and not believing I won,” said the
Medfield resident. “I remember Dave McGillivray [B.A.A. race director] saying
to me, ‰Û¢You broke B.A.A. tape‰ÛÓyou made history!'” Nixon tackles an historic
B.A.A. event annually‰ÛÓin April she will run her 17th B.A.A. Boston Marathon for
the Dana Farber Marathon Challenge. She has not run the ‰Û¢Half ‰Û¢ in recent years
because of her children’s sports’ schedules. “I still cherish the race,” she
said. “I’ll be back.”

 

Nixon is likely the only Dana-Farber runner to have won the
B.A.A. Half Marathon, but everyone on the Dana-Farber Team wins the prize for
philanthropy. Through the B.A.A. Half alone, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Running the Race Against Cancer Team, with a record 500 runners in 2011, has
raised approximately $3 million for cancer research and treatment. Dana-Farber
and the Jimmy Fund have served as presenting sponsors for the B.A.A. Half Marathon
since 2003.

 

Entry fees from the race also benefit the Emerald Necklace
Conservancy, helping to preserve the Emerald Necklace parks that lend their
picturesque views to runners in the B.A.A. Half, and offer year-round parkland,
waterways, paths and gardens to more than one million patrons per year from
Boston and beyond.

 

Famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead took nearly
20 years to create the 1,000-acre linear park system winding from the Charles
River to Dorchester. Runners stride through or alongside the Back Bay Fens,
Riverway, Olmsted Park, Jamaica Pond, Arnold Arboretum and Franklin Park. The
race starts and finishes in Franklin Park, the largest jewel of the Emerald
Necklace.
 
(Still flying after all these years‰ÛÓWayne Levy at the
2010 race.
Photo by FitzFoto)

 

The race also runs past several animal enclosures in the
Franklin Park Zoo. “Although I’ve lived and worked in Boston and am familiar
with much of the city, I had never spent any time in the Franklin Park area,”
said Hopkinton’s Kelly Ianelli, who has run the race twice. “The arboretum is
gorgeous and I love enjoying the scenery of Boston from a different vantage
point. This year was especially cool since we had recently watched the movie Zookeeper with the kids. They were very
impressed when I told them the race was being run at that same zoo. They were
only slightly disappointed when they learned that the animals didn’t talk to
me.”

 

Levy, Nixon and Ianelli named the turn-around on the
Riverway as a preferred spot on the 13.1 mile journey. “Another favorite part
of the course is when you turn around and see the other runners. It is
nice to see and hear the support from everyone,” said Levy, who also named the
scenic Riverway and Jamaicaway as favorite areas of the course.

“The whole course is beautiful but I especially like the
turn-around point at mile 4.75,” said Ianelli, a runner for almost 30 years.
“It is so motivating to see runners cheering on those behind them as they loop
back around.”

 

Many have been motivated to fast times at the event. While
the rolling hills and switchback turns slow paces, the elite field, seasonally
temperate weather, and $30,000 prize purse keep runners rolling. Tom Nyariki
set the men’s course record with a photo-finish 1:02:20 in 2007. Caroline
Rotich cruised to a record 1:10:52 in 2010 to break the seven-year-old record
of Irish Olympian Marie Davenport by five seconds.

 

While most runners are not vying for prize money or records,
they all benefit from the B.A.A.’s professional staff, plentiful volunteers,
generous sponsors and other perks like free training programs and clinics
leading up to the race.

 (The B.A.A. Half Marathon finishes on the track in
Franklin Park’s White Stadium.

Photo by Victah
Sailer/photorun.net)
 

Comparing the B.A.A. Half Marathon to the Boston Marathon,
Ianelli said, “Both races are very well-run and organized. The packets are
mailed to the runners in advance so you arrive at the race in the morning with
your number. Having one less thing to worry about on race morning is a bonus.
There is also a tremendous amount of information available online to help
with logistics. There are even buses available to get runners to the start,
just like the marathon. Oh, and the adidas race shirts are great too!”

 

In an effort to keep improving, the B.A.A. has tweaked
aspects of the race, from adding and then removing a lap of Fenway Park, to
reversing the course to allow for more space in the start/finish area. The
B.A.A. recently announced the creation of the B.A.A. Distance Medley, a
three-race series including the B.A.A. 5K, 10K and Half Marathon. The male and
female winners of the series (determined by aggregate time) will take home
$100,000, in addition to prize money they win at the individual races. Runners
completing all three races will earn a commemorative medal to complement the
finishers’ medals from each race.

 

Aspiring B.A.A. Half Marathoners should not wait until the
leaves turn before signing up for the 2012 event, as it’s sure to fill quickly.

 

 

Men’s winners

2001 Wayne Levy 1:10:57

2002 David Hinga 1:09:47

2003 Laban Kipkemboi 1:03:04

2004 Luke Metto 1:02:57

2005 Celedonio Rodrigues
1:04:09

2006 Samuel Ndereba 1:03:03

2007 Tom Nyariki 1:02:20

2008 Charles Munyeki 1:02:46

2009 Martin Fagan 1:02:21

2010 John Korir 1:02:21

2011 Ali Abdosh 1:03:36

 

Women’s winners

2001 Sarah Nixon 1:21:16

2002 Sarah Nixon 1:22:34

2003 Marie Davenport 1:10:57

2004 Lornah Kiplagat 1:12:05

2005 Nataliya Berkut 1:12:21

2006 Marie Davenport 1:12:10

2007 Edna Kiplagat 1:13:36

2008 Azalech Masresha
1:11:44

2009 Belainesh Zemedkun
Gebre 1:11:07

2010 Caroline Rotich 1:10:52

2011 Janet Cherobon-Bawcom
1:11:58

 

Men’s Masters Winners

2001 Dave Oliver 1:16:12

2002 Bill Rogers 1:16:05

2003 Eddy Hellebuyck 1:05:12

2004 Dan Verrington 1:14:16

2005 Wayne Levy 1:12:50

2006 Oscar Gonzalez-Barreto
1:10:59

2007 Henry Scollard 1:15:07

2008 Gregory Picklesimer
1:14:20

2009 Joseph Koech 1:07:42

2010 Joseph Koech 1:11:08

2011 Joseph Koech 1:11:30

 

Women’s Masters Winners

2001 Patricia Greene 1:29:23

2002 Nanci Cahalane 1:30:13

2003 Maria Servin 1:17:49

2004 Valentina Yegorova
1:15:55

2005 Firaya
Sultanova-Zhdanova 1:15:19

2006 Firaya
Sultanova-Zhdanova 1:16:12

2007 Lucy Canavan 1:32:07

2008 Susannah Landreth
1:24:46

2009 Laura Lipcsei 1:30:45

2010 Kara Haas 1:21:44

2011 Francesca Dominici
1:34:38

 

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