ANCHORAGE (AP) -- At least 38 Alaskans will be among the runners lining up for the Boston Marathon on Monday.
Leading the pack will be John Clark, 41, the cross-country coach at Dimond High School, who put in a long winter of grueling treadmill work to get ready, averaging about 80 miles a week.
Clark qualified for America's oldest, most prestigious road race almost 18 months ago, running the 2000 Chicago Marathon in 2 hours 34 minutes, almost 45 minutes faster than necessary in his age category to win an invitation to Boston.
As the fastest of 38 Alaskans invited to the 106th Boston Marathon, Clark is hoping to lower his personal record for the marathon below the 2:30 mark.
''Absolutely,'' Clark says. ''I've trained too hard this past winter not to improve.''
Clark won't be a contender in the open division in Monday's race. In the sprawling international field of 16,000 racers, there are about a thousand with qualifying times faster than his. The top 14 racers alone, including nine Kenyans but no Americans, have run marathons in 2:10:50 or faster.
The youngest Alaskan is expected to be 20-year-old Anchorage runner Talitha Birch, who qualified last year in the Seattle Marathon by finishing first in her age division but will enter Boston ranked 7,717th overall.
Wasilla husband-and-wife entrants Michael and Lachelle Crotteau have dreamed about Boston ever since they began marathon training five years ago running on the backcountry trails of Juneau. Michael qualified that year in Seattle, but Lachelle didn't.
''Ever since I ran my first one, it was sort of my goal to qualify for Boston,'' says Lachelle, 28, a teacher at Larson Elementary School. ''It gives you a goal every year to keep training.''
Last fall she qualified, shaving 25 minutes off her previous time while running 3:25 in the Twin Cities Marathon in Minneapolis. Michael qualified too, running 2:52. Since then, he's injured his hamstring and now plans to slow down and just enjoy the race with his wife.
''He's planning to pace me,'' Lachelle says, ''which is nice, because he's usually a good half-hour ahead of me.''
Also entered are six Fairbanks runners who've just spent the winter running outdoors. Among them: Mike Kramer, 34, a former state cross-country champion at Lathrop High; Kevin Brinegar, 32, a two-time winner of Fairbanks' ultra-mountainous Equinox Marathon; and Andrew Holland, 45, who's run in the Boston Marathon 13 times.
For John Clark, this Boston will be his first, though he's hardly a newcomer to distance racing.
Three years ago, he finished first in the 5-kilometer Anchorage Daily News Heart Run, the state's biggest road race. Last year he was the top Alaska finisher in the Mayor's Midnight Sun Marathon in Anchorage.
Since then he's improved, says Clark, who also works as manager of Skinny Raven Sports. He's added some muscle and lost some weight. At 5-foot-11 and 142 pounds, his body-fat content was recently measured at 3 to 4 percent.
''I qualify as a chubby Kenyan,'' he said.
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