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Published April 20 2010

Boston Marathon: Locals find Newton Hills big challenge

First-time Boston Marathoners Dave Backlund and Richie Spitsberg of North Dakota had a similar take on the historic course on Monday.

Those Newton hills are a killer.

“It’s a rugged course,” said Backlund, a 52-year-old from Fargo. “Not only are the hills bad, but they are bad where they are at. It’s not a course you are going to get a (personal record) on.”

“The course was a lot of fun,” said Spitsberg, a 25-year-old former University of North Dakota runner from Grand Forks. “The hills do present some challenges.”

The Newton portion of the race contains an infamously challenging stretch of four hills from about mile 17½ to mile 21. The Newton hills culminate in Heartbreak Hill, considered by many to be one of the toughest stretches on the course due to its incline and location at the back end of the course.

Backlund finished the race in 3 hours, 39 minutes, 35 seconds during Monday’s 114th running of the Boston Marathon.

He was 7,125th overall in the men’s division.

Backlund said the weather was a perfect 41 degrees when he started the race. However, things became more difficult as the temperature kicked up to 61 as the race continued.

“That’s too hot for me,” Backlund said.

Backlund said he had a great time at the event, despite a nearly one-hour pre-race wait to load onto buses to head to the starting line and another lengthy delay to get in position to start the race.

Backlund said his most memorable part of the race was a large group of fans outside Boston’s Wellesley College about halfway through the course.

“The ladies are so loud it hurts your ears,” he said. “There were several thousand women going crazy. That is the stuff you remember.”

Spitsberg was 239th in the men’s division after finishing with a time of 2:42.46.

He said the atmosphere was second-to-none.

“It’s absolutely amazing,” Spitsberg said. “It’s a crazy experience, that’s for sure. I think I would definitely like to come back out here.”

Robert Cheruiyot of Kenya won the men’s race Monday, finishing in a course-record time of 2:05.52.

Teyba Erkesso earned the women’s title with a time of 2:26.11.

“I really don’t know if you could have better weather,” Spitsberg said. “It was more or less ideal for marathoning. To see that the (men’s) course record went down by a minute-and-a-half is pretty amazing.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Heath Hotzler at (701) 241-5562