Burgassers log strong Boston Marathon runs
By DAVE THEALL
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 26, 2001
Call him a survivor, perseverer or winner.
St. Petersburg's Joe Burgasser is all three.
Surviving the 105th Boston Marathon, his 21st running of the annual classic, was the least of the concerns for the 62-year-old coach of the Forerunners Track Club.
Persevering for 26.2 miles at a predetermined pace in the 6:40 per-mile range was challenging. That was a lofty but realistic goal even though his 60-64 age-group qualifying standard called for only 8:24 per mile.
Winning the men's 60-69 division, in a field of 303 international runners, was a major accomplishment. With a time of 2:56:49, Burgasser won by over 11 minutes from his closest rival. On an age-graded basis, using age-weighted factors, his adjusted time was 2:25:18. That would have placed him 31st overall and the ninth American.
In a field of 13,753 starters, in which 97.5 percent finished, Burgasser was 641st.
"After all these years of running Boston, it's a thrill to have won my age division and run this fast," said Burgasser, who finished second in 1999 and last year.
"I was confident I could do it because I was healthy this year and had done the training. That is, averaging 85 miles a week in February and March and doing the necessary training -- both speed work on the track and hill training," he said. "In recent years, I've been bothered by Achilles injuries, but not this year."
The race wasn't the "perfect wave," however.
Whereas Burgasser wanted to run an even pace the entire course from Hopkinton to downtown Boston, he couldn't during the early miles unless he wanted to get stampeded.
He was in a starting pen of top qualifiers just behind the elite field, and unless he got out fast, he'd have been knocked down and trampled. So the 6:04 first mile wasn't in the plan, nor was the 6:10 second.
But Burgasser finally got to settle into a more realistic pace and covered the first 5K in 19:10, the 10K in 39:59 and the 15K in 1:00:33 -- not far off his Gasparilla time of 59:15.
Burgasser survived running the gauntlet through the Wellesley College campus of screaming students -- the half-way mark in 1:25:42 -- battled the hills of Newton, including Heartbreak Hill, and cruised home in 2:56:49. There was a headwind from start to finish.
Burgasser's son, Jim, 31, passed him about a half mile into the marathon. They exchanged "Have a good one" supportive greetings.
Jim, a graduate of Lakewood High School and Florida State (1993), went on to run a personal-best 2:44:01 -- good for first among area entries and third best from the state.
"I got caught up in the excitement and went out a little too fast," Jim said. "I knew I needed to slow down. My 15K (9.3 miles) time of 56:06 was my best ever for that distance. Overall, it was a great run, although I felt it during the last four miles."
NOTES: The area's top women were Pinellas Park's Laure Blume (3:02:50) and Mary Ann Protz, 44, of St. Petersburg in 3:15:14.
Both are coached by Burgasser and are members of the West Florida Y Runners Club, as are the Burgassers and many other Pinellas distance runners.
Blume, who finished among the top 1 percent of women (5,711) at 56th place, maintains a Pinellas domination among Florida women in Boston.
Lisa Valentine of Tierra Verde was first in 1999 and Christy Phillips last year. On both of those occasions, the Forerunners women took the team title.
Coach Burgasser said Protz's fast finish particularly was notable because she's coming off an injury -- bilateral stress fractures -- that prevented her from training seriously until early February.
"Mary Ann may have had the race of the day," Burgasser said. "She's capable of breaking 3 hours on the right course."
The only Pinellas runners between the Burgassers were Andy Scavelli and Walt Sieg, both of Palm Harbor, and Treasure Island's Mark Kennedy. Among Joe Burgasser's other notable career accomplishments are 27 consecutive years of at least one sub-2:50 marathon between 1972 and 1998, a national masters championship and an American record for 50 miles of 5:39:06.
Bill Riley, a winter resident of St. Petersburg, finished third (3:10:56) in the 60-69 age division and went to the victory stand with Burgasser to receive his award. Complete area results appeared in the April 17 edition of the Times.
TARPON SPRINGS: Judy Maguire, 42, of Clearwater finished third (40:15) of 115 runners at Saturday's Run in the Woods 10K at Booker Creek Preserve. Vicky Greenwood of Oldsmar won the women's division of the 5K cross country event in 21:45. (See FTR for more results).
TAMPA: Melissa Kotchman, 13, of Seminole squeezed out a two-second victory over Lisa Valentine (18:31) of Tierra Verde in Sunday's Draft Day 5K at Raymond James Stadium. Kotchman is a seventh-grader at Indian Rocks Christian.
Katie Montague finished third (18:33), and St. Petersburg's Amy McClenathan took fourth (19:12).
In the men's division, Andrew Fulton of Tampa won in 16:39. He was followed by David Meri (16:54), Eric Hall (16:56) and Bob Villacres (17:11).
COMING UP: The Seminole Stampede (5 and 10K) is Saturday at 8:15 a.m. at Walsingham Park in Seminole. Call 392-3245 for details.
Wednesday night's Tampa Bay Corporate Run 5K will be held from Straub Park in St. Petersburg at 6:45 p.m.
Ex-Olympian Jeff Galloway will speak at the event at 5:45 and run. The noted author and marathon coach ran the 10,000 meters in the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. He's a former Florida Track Club teammate of Olympians Frank Shorter and Jack Bacheler.
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