|The 2006 Boston Marathon - The Wheelchair Races
by John Elliott
Ernst Van Dyk arrived at the Boston Marathon with five consecutive victories at Boston - he was the undisputed favorite to win the wheelchair competition. Krige Schabort had finished second behind Van Dyk in 2002, 2003 and 2005 - but never truly in contention for a win. The 2006 race was likely to have the same outcome as past years...
Ernst Van Dyk has probably done more for the visibility of wheelchair racing than any other athlete. Van Dyk's 2006 performance in the Boston Marathon proved that he is the dominant force in his sport. Winning Boston for the sixth time in a row was just part of the story. Van Dyk's victory at Boston fell in the middle of a four week tour of races and undoubtedly a domination in each. Van Dyk won the Paris Marathon the week before Boston, added the 2006 Boston Marathon to his win list and will go on to tackle the London and Seoul Marathons in the following two weeks.
As is his regular strategy, Van Dyk jumped to the front of the race and broke contact with all others. He does not want the others to draft off of him which creates a large advantage in these wheeled sports. By 5K - which, with the controlled first mile is really only two miles into the course - Van Dyk had a lead of 45 seconds over his competition. By the halfway mark, Van Dyk's lead had grown to 2-1/2 minutes and at the end Van Dyk's winning time of 1:25:29 was more than 3-1/2 minutes faster than the second place finish.
Behind Van Dyk a large pack had developed and all would work together through the first miles - perhaps in a vain effort to catch Van Dyk or else in an attempt to neutralize the other. Kelly Smith, Alan Bergman, Roger Puigbo Verdaguer and Michel Filteau all remained together through the downhills and flats, although their distance from Van Dyk increasing. When the group reached the hills of Newton Schabort moved forward and built a lead - his strength and experience getting the best of the others. Schabort would continue forward to take second place in 1:29:04.
Into the hills, with first and second place determined, Michel Filteau was the first to drop off the pace, then Puigbo Verdaguer fell off. Coming out of the hills, it was Smith and Bergman... Finally Smith managed to shake Bergman and would go on to take third place in 1:29:34. Bergman finished fourth in 1:29:56, Puigbo Verdaguer was fifth in 1:30:27 and Filteau was sixth in 1:30:45.
The Women's Race:
The 2006 Women's Wheelchair field consisted of just four participants, only two of whom could be considered competitive.
Edith Hunkeler had won the Boston Marathon in 2002, was second in 2001 and 2004 and third in 2003. In addition Hunkeler had come off of wins at the previous two New York City Marathons - in any field, she would be considered a strong contender. Diane Roy finished sixth at Boston in 2004 and was second at Boston in 2005 and had good sprint speed. The race would be between these two women.
From the start, Edith Hunkeler and Diane Roy worked off each other to push a respectable pace. Over the first seven miles, Shirley Reilly hung onto the two leaders, but soon the race was only Hunkeler and Roy. Through the downhill and flat portions of the course the two leaders remained together, but once the hills began, Hunkeler pushed and created a gap over her competition.
At the finish, Hunkeler was crowned victor in 1:43:42, the 20th fastest women's wheelchair time at Boston. Roy finished second in 1:48:52, two minutes faster than her 2005 time. Shirley Reilly finished in third place in 1:53:44.