People's race

THE 26-mile, 385-yard course from Hopkinton to Boston was no shorter this year. The incline of Heartbreak Hill, the Newton summit that tests the courage of runners, was no flatter. The hundreds of thousands of fans lining the roadway of America's oldest marathon were no fewer. The personal victories were no less dramatic: the father pushing his son the distance in a special wheelchair, the blind and other disabled assisted by friends, the several thousand amateurs whose finishing times were notable enough to merit printing in the local paper -- filling a page in minuscule type. It is hard to see how the coming of cash to the Boston race has really changed things.

As expected, the field was better this year. World-class runners had begun to pass up Boston in favor of races that offered prize and appearance money. Men's winner Rob de Castella of Australia and women's winner Ingrid Kristiansen of Norway, with awards and fees, netted $235,000 and $140,000, respectively.

This year's Boston Marathon showed that a few professionals can be included in a competition without changing its character as a people's race.

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