BOSTON — Going into Monday’s 120th Boston Marathon, Tatyana McFadden said competing in major marathons is simply preparation for her ultimate finish line: the Paralympic Games. If Monday’s fourth-straight Patriots Day win was any indication, opponents better watch out.
By her own barometer, McFadden is already well positioned to achieve her Phelpsian-like goal of winning seven gold medals in a 10-day span at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games this September — which would make her the first athlete to sweep every distance from the 100-meter to the marathon at the Paralympic Games.
“It’s going to be quite a busy week, but I’m really, really looking forward to it,” McFadden said after winning Monday’s race in 1 hour, 42 minutes, 16 seconds. “I love racing so much that I hope I can put it together nicely. Training has been very, very tough. I did Boston and then (I’ll do) London and then switch back over to track. So it’s been a really high intensity competing schedule but that’s all in preparation for Rio.”
The 11-time Paralympic medalist finished ahead of Manuela Schar of Switzerland (1:43:30) and Wakako Tsuchida of Japan (1:43:34) on Monday. The win kicked off McFadden’s bid for a fourth straight wheelchair marathon grand slam — Boston, London, Chicago and New York. McFadden became the first athlete to claim all four titles in a calendar year in 2013 and then repeated it in 2014 and 2015.
On Monday, Tsuchida got off to a blistering start as McFadden hung back, nervous to take the downhill portion of the race too fast.
“I’m like grandma going downhill, but I am getting better,” McFadden joked.
Despite falling behind early, McFadden said she told herself to relax around mile five or six. Once again, McFadden used the memory of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing as motivation. For the third year in a row, she wore a Team MR8 bib in honor of the 8-year-old boy, Martin Richards, who was killed in the bombing. She high-fived Martin’s father at the finish line.
McFadden never looked back after taking the lead around mile nine, and she only further separated herself from the pack after climbing the Newton Hills.
“I had a little bit of a rough start, but I had to remember the reason I’m racing,” McFadden told NBC Sports shortly after crossing the line, “and it’s to keep the city alive and for MR8. And that’s the reason I’m here.”
While McFadden once again wore her MR8 jersey in lieu of her usual sponsor-laden jersey, the Paralympic champion is quick to recognize the importance of sponsors. The BMW-sponsored athlete said she couldn’t wait for the automobile juggernaut to officially release its new racing chair for the U.S. Paralympics Track & Field Team.
“I tell everyone it looks like a bat mobile, and I’m like superwoman in it,” she said. “Technological advancements are important, and that’s why sponsorships are so crucial for us.”
The carbon fiber chair will be a huge boon for McFadden as she attempts to sweep seven events — 100, 400, 800, 1,500, 5,000, 4x400 and the marathon — at the Paralympic Games. McFadden has never won the Paralympic marathon and said it will by far be her toughest test in Rio.
“At that point I will have already ran 13 races — (including) prelims and finals — and that will be coming up to my 14th event,” she said. “It’s a long week; it’s an emotional week, the weather will be quite warm, so that will be taken into consideration.
“So I have to really believe in myself and hopefully make the country proud.”
Noteworthy: U.S. runners Neely Spence Gracey and Sarah Crouch briefly jumped out to an early lead in the women’s elite race before falling behind the group. Born on Marathon Monday in 1990, Gracey ultimately finished ninth in 2:35:00 in her marathon debut. Crouch finished 11th in 2:37:36.
“We were saying, ‘Wow we are leading the Boston Marathon, we need to take this in and relish the moment,’” said Gracey, whose father, Steve Spence, won the 1992 U.S. Olympic marathon trails. “We knew the race was going to get going so we were able to work well together out there.”
Zachary Hine, a native of South Hadley, Massachusetts, was the first U.S. man across the line. He finished 10th in 2:21:37.
“It’s really special,” said Hine, who has battled injuries since running Boston in 2011. “I’ve had texts and calls on my phone blowing up since I’ve finished. To have a great race in Boston is something I’ve been hoping for.
“To finally have it work out this year it’s definitely special.”
Ian Burrell finished 13th in the men’s race at 2:22:22. James Senbeta was the best U.S. men’s wheelchair finisher. He clocked a time of 1:26:19 to take fifth place.