Shenenedehowa graduate Mindel cracks top 20 in Boston Marathon
Scott Mindel didn’t need the bank signs to tell him that the temperature was in the 80s.
He was reminded every time he passed a water station and tossed another undrinkably hot cup over his head.
And every step between.
Adjusting to unseasonably hot conditions, the 25-year-old Shenendehowa graduate ran a smart race and was rewarded not so much on the clock, but on the final leaderboard, as he finished 19th at the 116th Boston Marathon on Monday.
He was one of three former Section II runners to finish in the top 10 among Americans, a group that also included 2011 Gazette Stockade-athon champion Tim Chichester, who ran a 2:21:10 to finish second on the U.S. list and 11th overall, which was worth a check for $2,600.
Mindel’s final time was 2:27:15, a few minutes slower than he had hoped to run, but, under the circumstances, a terrific effort on a day in which the Boston Athletic Association made a rare concession to the heat by allowing people to defer their entry until next year.
“To come close to a PR, about 21⁄2 minutes over, in these conditions? I’m definitely happy,” Mindel said by phone. “When I found out I was sixth American, I almost started crying. I was shaking. I couldn’t believe I did that.”
Besides Mindel, Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons graduate Kieran O’Connor, 25, was the eighth U.S. runner to finish, in 2:30:09 (22nd overall), and Amsterdam graduate Jake Krong, 27, of Salt Lake City was ninth in 2:30:21 (23rd overall).
Mindel, whose start time was 10:17 a.m., said there was an announcement shortly after 10 that the temperature had officially cracked 80.
By then, he had already reconsidered his gameplan for what was his Boston debut.
Despite a quicker-than-anticipated first mile, he was able to maintain measured mile splits in preparation for the inclines between miles 16 and 21, including Heartbreak Hill, and the less notorious, but similarly challenging Newton hills.
“It [heat] kept me off the pedal for eight miles,” he said. “That helped me, then the last 10k was survival. The people that I talked to who ran well all said they were being overcautious.
“I knew it was hot, but I didn’t realize how downhill it is at the start. I did 5:31 [first mile] without trying, then a 5:38 and got into a good rhythm. It was a little faster than I wanted to be, but I was feeling pretty good.”
Mindel’s half-marathon split was 1:12:49.
He held or improved his place from the four-mile mark, except for being passed by one runner who he later passed back.
“The half was about what I did at Virginia Beach, and I still felt pretty good,” he said. “At 16, 17, that’s when the heat started to take a toll. Then I got up Heartbreak Hill, and it really wasn’t until a half-mile or a mile after that that it started to hit me. I was thinking, ‘That was really not that bad,’ and then it hit my legs.”
To compound the effects of the hills, Mindel developed a blister on his right foot that popped and eventually half-soaked his shoe with blood.
“It was worse than it looked,” he said. “Once I hit 22, my body was dead, anyway, so it didn’t make any difference.”
Mindel also started to cramp up in his hamstrings and quadriceps.
He adjusted his pace again at mile 23, going into full survival mode for the final 5k.
Compensating for the weather to a great deal was the crowd that urges everyone along, he said.
“It’s crazy. The whole race is crazy,” Mindel said. “This is by far the biggest race I’ve ever been in. I was completely dead at Boylston Street, but I could feel myself picking it up. At Wellesley, I was high-fiving all the girls. I’m glad that was only a little part of the race, it’s only about a half-mile, but there’s so much energy. I think I did a good job of controlling myself.”
Mindel, who was sixth to Chichester in the Stockade-athon, four weeks after having run the Hartford Marathon, said he believes he could’ve run around 2:20 on a perfect day.
Lacking that, he made the most of a difficult situation.
“They were telling people not to run,” said Mindel, a former cross country star at the University of Cincinnati. “When I heard I was the sixth American, I was kind of in shock. Tim, he was amazing.”
Chichester hit the half-marathon (1:08:42) on pace to qualify for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials, then ran a slower second half to miss by over two minutes. The standard is sub-2:19.
O’Connor, who turned himself into a marathoner while at the University of Notre Dame despite not running for the school team, was passed by Mindel at mile 11, then passed Krong with all of 50 yards left.
Like Mindel, he was a few minutes off his target time.
Besides the heat, he said he couldn’t keep himself from going out too quickly.
“When I saw my split at the 5k [16:54], I just started laughing, because I knew everyone who was tracking my time gave out a collective ‘Oh, no,’” O’Connor said. “I got hooked into a group and knew I was going too fast.
“Scott went by me like I was standing still. Someone said ‘You’re halfway there,’ and he said, ‘Nope, not quite.’ Then I started to come unglued around 15 and decided to back off and get into survival mode. I settled in really nicely.”
O’Connor’s father was on the course with a few miles left and told him he was still in the top 25.
Although he and Krong competed in the Big 10 together, he didn’t recognize the former Running Ram as he backed up toward O’Connor with less than a half-mile to go.
“He was coming back to me pretty quickly, so I wondered if maybe I had some kick left,” O’Connor said. “He was dead. I waited for him to cross the line and said, ‘Great race,’ and I didn’t even know it was him until a buddy of mine from Scotia told me later.
“To be in the top six in the Stockade-athon, you have to be in the top 22 at Boston, how about that?” he said with a laugh.
Chichester’s sister, Jessica, 25, of Guilderland, ran 3:14:50. She’s a former University at Albany runner.
Dan Larson, 60, of Queensbury, ran 3:46:51. He has completed the Boston Marathon 37 straight times and has started it 43 straight, since he was an undergraduate cross country runner at Yale University.
Brian DeBraccio of Scotia (3:41:23) also has a nice streak going, having finished Boston 15 straight years.