Monday, November 06, 2006
Lance's Marathon Debut...
NEW YORK (AP) - About an hour after the men's and women's champions had crossed the finish line, the crowd really started to buzz at the New York City Marathon. Lance Armstrong was coming.
The seven-time Tour de France champion made an impressive marathon debut Sunday, accomplishing his goal of finishing in less than 3 hours and thrilling fans who seemed much more enthused at seeing Armstrong than watching a Brazilian man and a Latvian woman win titles earlier on a crisp autumn afternoon.
Armstrong's time was 2 hours, 59 minutes and 36 seconds. His shirt soaked in sweat, he virtually walked the last couple of steps to the finish line. He shuffled into a post-race news conference, his right shin heavily taped.
"I think I bit off more than I could chew, I thought the marathon would be easier," he said. "(My shins) started to hurt in the second half, especially the right one. I could barely walk up here, because the calves are completely knotted up."
He called the race "the hardest physical thing I have ever done" - even more grueling than his worst days on the Tour.
Lance Armstrong wanted to break three hours in the New York City marathon Sunday. And he did just that ... by 24 seconds.
"I never felt a point where I hit the wall, it was really a gradual progression of fatigue and soreness."
The 35-year-old Armstrong appeared relaxed for the first half of the race, smiling at fans and talking with the small group of runners that surrounded him for much of the marathon. His muscular legs and chest were in stark contrast to the ultra-thin elite runners far ahead of him.
He was paced for most of the race by former marathon champions Alberto Salazar and Joan Benoit Samuelson and middle-distance running great Hicham El Guerrouj, and said he got a lot of support from fans packed along the course.
But his body seemed to tighten and showed signs of pain and fatigue in the final few miles. He started to fall off the pace required to break 3 hours before a final push allowed him to meet his personal goal.
"Before the race that was my goal, I wanted to break 3 hours. But if you told me with 3 miles to go, 'You're going to do 3:05,' I wouldn't have cared," he said. "Honestly, at the end I was so tired, I couldn't care. Now I'm glad I did."
Will he be back? "Now's not the time to ask that question. The answer now is no, I'll never be back. But I reserve the right to change my mind," he said. "I don't know how these guys do it."