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Original Issue

Olympic Sports

Long Journey
As Deena Kastor won the marathon trials, two other U.S. women earned redemptionwith their Beijing berths

FOR THE Best U.S.track and field athletes, the Olympic trials are a delicate dance—an attempt tomake the national team without sacrificing potential success at the Games. Fouryears ago Deena Kastor won a bronze medal in the marathon at the AthensOlympics, and on Sunday morning at the women's marathon trials in Boston,Kastor sought to win the race while saving her best work for Beijing in August."Get the most doing the least," said Ryan Hall, who won the men'strials last November and trains with Kastor at high altitude in Mammoth Lakes,Calif.

Planning is simplerthan execution. More than 14 miles into Sunday's race, Kastor trailed MagdalenaLewy Boulet by nearly two minutes. Kastor had intended to stay with the packand race hard only for the last 10,000 meters. "But there were a lot ofmiles where I thought that I'd misjudged it," she would say afterward.

Kastor, 35, thefastest U.S. female marathoner in history (2:19:36), set out after Lewy Bouletin the 16th mile. It took her nearly eight miles to run down Lewy Boulet beforepassing her in the 24th mile and finishing in 2:29:35, with Lewy Boulet 44seconds behind and third Olympic qualifier Blake Russell another 2:21 back."I had to run a strong last six miles to win," said Kastor. "I feelI can recover from this and move forward to Beijing."

Lewy Boulet, 34,who is married to one-time 3:53 miler Richie Boulet, broke away less than amile into the race, absurdly early. Except on out-and-back sections of thecourse, she didn't see another runner until Kastor caught her. Lewy Boulet'space was not terribly fast (1:14:37 for the half-marathon), but excruciatinglylonely. "The plan was to run the pace I was running," Lewy Boulet said."The plan was not to run by myself."

Lewy Boulet'sperformance was the pinnacle of a trying career. A native of Poland, she movedto Long Beach, Calif., with her family at age 18 and was sworn in as a U.S.citizen on Sept. 11, 2001, in a ceremony that was truncated because of theterrorist attacks that day. Lewy Boulet has a two-year-old son, but she doesnot have shoe company sponsorship and must hold down a job, rare among toprunners. Last September she began work as a full-time assistant track coach atCal after working for seven years as the research and development director forGU Sports, which makes a popular energy gel.

Even as Lewy Bouletbuilt her early lead, she feared a collapse. "Many things went through myhead," she said. She recalled that Russell had led the 2004 trials beforefading late and missing the Olympic team by five seconds. Lewy Boulet thought,Oh boy, I hope that doesn't happen to me.

Russell hoped itdidn't happen to her. Again. With Lewy Boulet far in front and Kastor loomingin the pack, Russell knew that her margin for error was slim. "I have to behonest, it [was] hard not to panic," she said. "But I feltstrong."

At 21 miles she ledDesiree Davila by just nine seconds. But Davila crashed, and Russell made herfirst Olympic team by more than a minute. She called her redemption"surreal," because for every Kastor, for whom the trials arepreparation, there are many Russells, for whom they are a dream.

ONLY AT SI.COMTrack and Field news and notes from Tim Layden.

Marathon Men

Here's an update on the three men who qualified for theU.S. Olympic marathon team last November (in order of finish, with qualifyingtime).

On April 13, Hall (right) was fifth in London, the fastest marathon in history(six runners under 2:07); he ran the half marathon on world-record pace andfinished in 2:06:17, the third-best time ever by a U.S. runner.

Won the U.S. cross-country title in February, but has raced sparingly sincewhile recovering from a sore iliotibial band in his knee.

Finished fourth at the U.S. 15-kilometer championships in March; plans to leaveMichigan for a stretch of pre-Games hot-weather training in Florida.



LEADER OF THE PACK In Boston, Kastor (inset) surged to victory after trailing by nearly two minutes.



[See caption above]