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Running

St. Petersburg runner is 2nd among U.S. women in Boston

By DAVE THEALL
Published April 20, 2004

A St. Petersburg runner stunned the women's field and the running community at the 108th Boston Marathon.

Mary Ann Protz, 47, finished 15th in the open division among a strong international women's field and was the second-fastest American woman in a time of 2 hours, 57 minutes, 58 seconds.

Overall, she was the 18th woman among a field of approximately 6,300 women finishers among the field of 20,000 qualifiers.

The open division is limited to the 44 elite women who started 29 minutes ahead of the field at 11:31 a.m. Only these women were eligible for prize money.

She won $5,000 for her second-place finish among masters women, 40-plus, and $1,500 for 15th place among the elite women.

"Just finishing under those conditions (temperatures in the 80s) was an accomplishment," Protz said from the Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston. "It was brutal; even those of us from Florida had trouble dealing with it.

"I'm happy to have broken 3 hours. I did that by passing people starting at about Mile 6."

Julie Spencer of Wisconsin finished 16th (2:56:39), two places ahead of Protz, for first American honors.

Although Protz's time was within her range - she ran the flat Chicago Marathon course in October in 2:56:10 - the heat did not bode well for the director of rehabilitation at Largo Medical Center.

However, in view of Protz's recent racing successes, her strong finish should not come as a shock to anyone.

After Chicago, where she placed first in her age division, Protz set personal records for 13.1 miles in winning the Gulf Beaches Halfathon in December, for the 10K distance in March in 38:25 in Oldsmar and earlier this month in the 5K at the Esquire Flyer in Gulfport, winning in 18:25. Also, she posted a 3:00:06 marathon at Disney World in January just behind Forerunners teammate and winner Kim Donaldson.

What diluted the American women's field this year was that the Olympic Trials for women was April 5.

That marathon in St. Louis drew most of the top women in the nation who weren't about to tackle 26.2 miles two weeks later.

Protz's strong finish enabled her Forerunners team to not only win its second consecutive masters team title, but it lowered its own Boston Marathon record of 9:14:19 to 8:58:49.

Last year Protz finished third (3:11:54) on the team behind Lisa Valentine and Donaldson. This year Donaldson improved from 3:11:43 to 2:58:15, one place behind Protz.

With Valentine contributing a 3:02:19 effort, they virtually set the team record out of reach.

That's how Forerunners coach Joe Burgasser predicted the outcome days before the race, assessing the team's high level of training and overall fitness.

In the women's masters field, Protz, Donaldson and Valentine finished second, third and fifth, respectively.

Valentine, who came into the race with a best time of 2:47:47, said her slow time was due to the heat.

"That was the hardest race I've ever done in my life," she said. "I'm blaming the weather; I had to deal with heat cramps almost from the start.

"But the important thing is we won. I'm proud of my teammates."

Burgasser, 65, ran another strong Boston Marathon, finishing in 3:13:17, good for the runnerup position in his 60-69 age group, as he did in 2002. He didn't compete last year.

The winner of that division, Joachim Bechtle of California, clocked 3:05:12. He's 60.

"I didn't have a good race, but our women's team blew away the masters teams and the open teams, too," he said.

"I'm proud of them all."

[Last modified April 20, 2004, 01:20:37]


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