Chicago, IL. — The sport of marathoning is changing very fast around us. This Sunday at the 2014 Bank of America Chicago Marathon the 5000 & 10,000 meter world record holder Keninisa Bekele, 32, of Ethiopia will make his second career attempt over the long distance. Yet through most of its century-plus history, the marathon has been populated by men of sturdy constitution, whose examination of the distance bespoke their tenacity and grit, but whose arsenals often lacked the speed necessary to excel at the shorter events on the track.
Oh, there were outliers, like Czech great Emil Zatopek winning his debut marathon at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, adding it to his collection of gold in the 5000 & 10,000 meters. And recall that Frank Shorter, the original father of the running boom, was every bit the top American distance track runner when he explored the marathon so successfully in the first half of the 1970s. But the norm for the distance was more like Derek Clayton of Australia, who held the marathon world record of 2:08:33 from May 1969 to December 1981, the longest stretch the record has ever lasted.
The introduction of track men coming to the marathon came when large sums of money entered the game after the initial running boom. That is when the aging oval speedsters saw the benefit of torturing themselves over the longer distance. In fact, moving up in distance became one of the standard career moves a runner made. This weekend we are celebrating the 30th anniversary of Steve Jones’ marathon world best in Chicago 1984 when, as the eighth-place finisher at the Los Angeles Olympic 10,000 meter final, Steve moved to the marathon with great success.
But in more recent times we have seen the very best on the track make the move, highlighted by two former 5000 & 10,000 meter world record holders who went on to grab the marathon record as well. Kenya’s Paul Tergat completed his record trifecta at the 2003 Berlin Marathon, which he won in a world record 2:04:55. Five years later his great Ethiopian rival Haile Gebrselassie won Berlin in 2:03:59 to add the marathon to his long list of track and road world records. (more…)