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Pair of Rookies Favored at Boston : First-Timers De Castella, Kristiansen Eye Marathon Wins

<i> Times Staff Writer </i>

It has been said that the Boston Marathon, with its punishing hills and erratic weather, can do strange and terrible things to those who are running it for the first time.

Bill Rodgers, for example, who has won this race four times, dropped out on his first try. And Norwegian Grete Waitz, who won the silver medal in the 1984 Olympic marathon, quit after 24 miles while running at world-record pace when the final downhills proved too painful for her already screaming quadriceps.

To be sure, there are exceptions. Olympic marathon gold medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson won her first Boston. So did Alberto Salazar, setting an American record in the process.

The favorites in both the men’s and women’s fields will be making their Boston debuts today in the 26-mile 385-yard race from Hopkinton to Boston.

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Australian Rob de Castella, marathon world champion in 1983, and Norwegian Ingrid Kristiansen, holder of the world record in the marathon--as well as the 10,000 and 5,000 meters on the track--say they will both be seeking to improve their best performances.

For Kristiansen, who clocked her world record-breaking 2 hours 21 minutes 6 seconds in the London Marathon this same weekend last year, it means only thing: breaking 2:20.

“It means a lot to be the first to do it,” she said. “I am going to take the chance. You must gamble. It’s better to gamble than not to try.”

The gamble, of course, is to run a blistering first half and risk blowing up during the second. But Kristiansen said she will attempt to run the first 13.1 miles in 1:07, more than a minute faster than the current world record in the half marathon--a pace that would make even the most reckless marathoner tremble.

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“I won’t be afraid if I see 1:07 at the halfway point,” she said.

It is no secret that Benoit Samuelson also wants to be the first to crack 2:20. But she is still recovering from surgery last fall and is not quite ready for a marathon. Last October she beat Kristiansen in Chicago with a personal best of 2:21:14. But it wasn’t enough.

“I had a dream earlier this week that Ingrid ran 2:14,” Benoit Samuelson said this weekend. “Then I had another dream that she ran 2:17. I hope I dream tonight that she runs over 2:20.”

Kristiansen, who has been working with a sports psychologist to overcome what she describes as serious mental barriers, said of Benoit: “The last two weeks I’ve been saying to myself: ‘This time she is not coming, so you must do that job yourself--you must do it against the watch.’ ”

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De Castella says he is hoping to run a personal best, which would bring him below the 2:08:18 he posted in 1981. The world record is 2:07:12, held by Carlos Lopes of Portugal.

“I’m hoping to win it,” De Castella said. “I’m hoping to run a fast time. And I’m hoping to be able to walk away from it afterwards--which might be the hardest part.”

De Castella is thought to have an edge here because he is considered strong, an asset on a hilly course.

“It helps going up those hills to be strong,” he said. “It may be a disadvantage going down them.”

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He added: “I respect the Boston course more than any other 26 milers. It’s one of the toughest. I don’t think any marathon organizer today would lay out a course like this one.”

Mexican Arturo Barrios, who has scored some stunning victories in shorter races recently, will be running his first marathon. “The way I run, I sit back and relax so I can see all the others--but they can’t see me,” he said.

Others in the lineup include two-time New York City Marathon winner Orlando Pizzolato of Italy; 1983 Boston winner Greg Meyer; Kunimitsu Ito of Japan, who says, “I’m going to stay back the first half--then take over from there”; Peter Pfitzinger, 11th in the Olympic marathon and the first American; David Gordon, fourth in the 1984 U.S. Olympic marathon trial; Paul Cummings, winner of the Houston Marathon in January; and Rodgers, who this time is “hoping to break 2:12 and be in the top 10.”

Other top women include New Zealander Lorraine Moller, fifth in the Olympic marathon and 1984 Boston champion; Carla Beurskens of The Netherlands, who has a best of 2:27:50; and Australian Lisa Martin, a 400-meter intermediate hurdler-turned-marathoner, whose best is a 2:27:40.

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This year Boston will offer prize money for the first time in its 90-year history. First-place man and woman finishers will each receive $30,000 and a car. Also, bonuses for course and world records could earn a first-place winner a total of $110,000.

But Kristiansen, who has but one goal in mind, said: “It’s not money that helps you break records. If I could earn $3 million for breaking 2:20, it wouldn’t make me run any faster.”


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