By Mark Etheridge
Denied an 11th Boston Marathon victory by split seconds, South Africa’s Ernst van Dyk still had the satisfaction of bettering the old course record as he ended up runner-up on Monday.
Race honours at the iconic United States event went to Switzerland’s Marcel Hug as the double Rio Paralympic gold medallist notched up his hat-trick of Boston victories in a world-best 1hr 18min 03sec. Van Dyk, also a gold medallist in Rio, was given the same time, as both were 22 seconds inside the old course record of Canadian Josh Cassidy.
Van Dyk, a seven-time Paralympic legend of South African sport, had said before the race that conditions looked like favouring super-fast times in the wheelchair division and so it proved to be with a tail-wind assisting the field.
The South African hit the front from the gun and reached speeds of up to 60km/h on the downhill sections.
The heaviest man in the elite field, Van Dyk makes good use of the downhills to gain momentum and build up any lead he can, especially with the tough pull up Heartbreak Hill in the final third of the field.
Having gone into the race buoyed by his recent win in the NYC Half-Marathon, Van Dyk also had a good last few weeks of training under his belt.
But there was also another factor that had to be taken into account.
‘At the moment I’m still adjusting to a new phase of my life after I started working full-time for Össur South Africa after Rio 2016 and am still slowly finding my balance.’
Going on to describe his race he said: ‘We knew the day before race day that conditions were going to favour fast times and I went for it right off the start. I had a decent lead after 3km but it just wasn’t enough and Marcel and two other Japanese athletes pulled back to me.
‘After a bit one of the Japanese guys dropped off and it wasn’t long after that the other guy did too and that left just me and Marcel. I knew we were going fast and I kept my eye on the splits through 15km and the half marathon mark and realised we had a very good shot at the record.
‘I told Marcel that if we just pushed the pace and left it for the sprint we could do it and went for it. We both kept the pressure on and pushed as hard as we could within our limits.’
After negotiating the tough pull up Heartbreak Hill the record was still on and the duo kept the pressure up for the final 10km.
‘Going into the final 500m I knew I had one move in me so I went for it. Our top speed topped out at 42km/h but I couldn’t get past him and he sustained the pace better and also had some more left in the tank.’
Hug and Van Dyk were comfortably clear of third placed Hiroyuki Yamamoto of Japan who clocked 1:19:32.
And despite having to settle for silver Van Dyk was a satisfied runner-up. ‘I’m pretty happy. We made history in the fastest marathon ever. It’s a personal best for me, bettering my previous mark of 1:18:27 which I did in 2004 which set the world’s best time back then.’
Like most years this time though, Van Dyk has little time to think back to Boston as he jets back across the Atlantic. ‘Next up is London on Sunday so I’m hoping the body will recover in time for another good race.’
Picture of Hug and Van Dyk’s thrilling Boston finish courtesy of Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
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