Tim Ritchie eyes top finish at Boston Marathon

  • Northampton resident and UMass cross country coach Tim Ritchie will compete in the elite field at the Boston Marathon. COURTESY NEW YORK ROAD RUNNERS

Staff Writer
Friday, April 12, 2019

Tim Ritchie couldn’t finish last year’s Boston Marathon. Freezing rain and temperatures in the 30s forced the Worcester native and former Boston College runner to the medical tent after 30 kilometers.

“This race means so much to me on many levels. Not finishing really hurt for a long time,” said Ritchie, a Northampton resident. “Hopefully I can go and get some closure.”

It was his second attempt at the Boston Marathon cut short. He ran for the first time in 2013 before the bombings stopped him at 40 kilometers.

“For me this is the biggest race in the world. In many ways it’s the pinnacle of distance running,” Ritchie said. “At the same time, in a lot of ways it feels like a local road race.”

He’ll toe the start line in Hopkinton on Monday as part of the John Hancock elite field for the second consecutive year. Ritchie, who coaches cross country at UMass, belongs in the starting chute with the world’s best. He finished 13th at the 2018 New York City Marathon and won the 2017 USATF Marathon National Championship. His personal-best time at that event – 2 hours, 11 minutes, 56 seconds – earned him the No. 26 bib in this year’s Boston Marathon.

“I’m not trying to finish in 26th place,” Ritchie said. “For me, being included in this field means I can run with anyone in the field.”

The field of 29 includes the last three winners, Olympians and world champions. Kenya’s Lawrence Cherono has the fastest time available, winning the 2018 Amsterdam Marathon in 2:04:06. Ethiopia’s Sisay Lemma, Lemi Berhanu, Solomon Deksis and Lelisa Desisa all have personal bests under 2:05:00.

“I respect my competitors and respect the difficulty of the event,” Ritchie said. “I want to compete to my highest ability. I think that could put me in a position to be fighting for the top 10 or closer.”

Ritchie is unafraid to set his goals high in elite marathons. Even if he realizes winning likely isn’t in the cards, striving for better results matters for the future of American distance running.

“I think American distance running as a whole, especially American women’s distance running, is pushing the envelope toward what we can do,” he said. “We’re trying to break out of this strictly trying to be top American and be the best in the world.”

Saucony, a Boston-based athletic shoe manufacture, has sponsored Ritchie since 2014. He trains on the Freedom Track Club the company established two years ago and is coached by 2004 U.S. Olympian Tim Broe. Saucony designs a custom shoe for the marathon every year, and it put out a Dunkin Donuts-inspired look for the second year in a row. Ritchie has both models and is debating which one to run in and which to save for his mantle.

“I’m all about it,” he said. “I’m a Dunkin addict.”

Even though Ritchie has never finished the Boston Marathon, he’s familiar with the course. He trained on it regularly living in Boston for 10 years as a student and coach at BC.

The course starts deceptively easy and downhill, forcing runners to stay in a reasonable gear to conserve energy for the hilly later sections.

“It’s a unique course and you prepare for it differently than you would other marathons,” Ritchie said. “The radical change from steep downhill to step uphill is a real physiological and psychological challenge. You’ve got to run the race with even mental energy and focus.”

Ritchie’s favorite point is Mile 21 when the course goes by Boston College.

“It’s after Heartbreak Hill. You’ve made it pretty far at that point,” he said. “It’s a special thing to run by BC and think on a pretty transformative part of my running life.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.