Boston's choice

MAYBE it was the drizzly weather, or the closeness of the Olympics. But the Boston Marathon seemed to miss half a step this year in keeping its olive crown as a premier international event.

This is to take nothing away from men's winner Geoff Smith of Great Britain and the fastest woman finisher, Lorraine Moller of New Zealand. Many of the world's premier runners did not show up.

The Boston Marathon is undergoing an identity crisis. Should it go the big-prize-money route and recast itself as one of the yearly premier events for the professional elite? Or should it content itself with amateur status and remain a people's contest?

Our hearts argue for the latter. When in time past the New World's oldest marathon was run for no more than the honor of it and a bowl of beef stew at the finish, it represented a kind of rugged Yankee individualism that remains as admirable as ever.

Our heads see something else. Running - shoes, apparel, publications - is becoming big business around the world. Its stars see themselves as deserving of purses for competition, as are professionals in golf, tennis, and other popular sports. Without providing for the competition of the world's best, the Boston Marathon could find itself lagging behind the development of its sport.

If this is the result, heads wins.

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