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McNeil leads Maritimers with 2:28:27 showing in Boston

O’Donnell top female out of 133 Maritime finishers

By Andrew Wagstaff
Maritime Runner
April 15, 2019

BOSTON, Mass., U.S.A. – Rain or shine, Matt McNeil is starting to love this town.
   The Halifax runner tore through the Boston Marathon at a blistering pace today, finishing as the second Canadian and top Maritimer for the second straight year. His time of 2:28:27 was almost seven minutes faster than his debut at the race last year.
   “Overall, I’m happy with the time, because there were a few points in the last 5K or so that I thought I was going to have to stop and walk for a bit,” said McNeil. “So I’m happy I salvaged what I could.”

Matt McNeil (right) of Halifax overtakes American Erik Teig in today’s 123rd annual Boston Marathon. McNeil was the top Maritime finisher and second Canadian, with a time of 2:28:27.

Photo courtesy of Shelley Doucet

   Because of the huge mass start, the tendency for many runners is to go out too fast in the early downhill section. In an effort to avoid this trap, McNeil started out at the back of Corral 1, and found himself passing runners throughout most of the race.
   Despite that effort, he crossed the halfway mark at a blistering 1:12:25.
   “I went through the half a little faster than what I wanted to, but I still felt fairly in control,” he said. “The first few kilometres were fairly slow in comparison. I knew it was going to hurt really bad once I got into those hills, and I didn’t know if I was going to be able to keep that pace or if I was going to blow up.”
   As he rode the bus to the start line in Hopkinton, he watched the rain pour down and wondered if he was in for another day like last year’s downpour. At one point, the bus had to pull over due to thunder and lightning.
   But the sun broke through the clouds before the start of the race, and it ended up getting quite warm, according to McNeil, who said he was in more pain after this year’s race than he was last year.

Among the Halifax Road Hammers taking part in today’s Boston Marathon were (from left) Matt McNeil, Tyler Germani, Justin Clarke, Jonathan Walker and Matthew McLaughlin.

Photo courtesy of Katie Bentt

   “I was fueling and taking gels like normal, but Gatorade and water more often than I normally would,” he said. “Still, for the last 5K I was pretty dehydrated. I had to go down to the massage and medical area and get worked on (after the race)… I could barely walk.
   McNeil finished 78th overall out of a crowd that was expected to reach more than 30,000. He was second only to Alberta’s Karl Augsten out of nearly 2,000 Canadians.
   But did he reach his goal?
   “Yes and no,” said McNeil. “My plan was to get through the half set up to finish in the mid-2:20s, but as I got late in the race I knew I was falling off. It was more a mentality of just getting to the finish at that point, similar to last year.
   “But I really wanted to get under 2:30 for sure, and I figured I had enough time in the bank when I started to fade,” he continued.
   "For the last couple kilometres, I was more trying to figure out if I was going to beat (coach) Lee McCarron’s PB. I think I missed it by 30 seconds or so.”
   McNeil was one of many Maritimers pulling off amazing performances in Boston today. Vincent Merriam of Stratford, P.E.I. was not only the top Islander with his 2:44:10 finish, but he was also 24th among all Canadians. Mathieu Morrison of Bathurst, N.B. was the top New Brunswick finisher at 2:46:17.
   Among females, Heather O’Donnell of Meadowvale, N.S. led the way with a 2:56:16 finish, while Rochelle Johnston of Moncton was the top New Brunswicker at 3:11:06, and Jen Nicholson of Cornwall was the top Islander at 3:21:53.
   Morag McDonah of Halifax placed third in the female 60-64 age category with her 3:21:27 finish. A total of 133 Maritimers crossed the finish line.