As we enter Boston Marathon week 2018, let us remember that people once used to believe that running a marathon wasn’t just a challenge, but a risk.
Bobbi Gibb, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon in 1966, had a father who thought the event was downright dangerous and was angry at his daughter for even thinking about running it – “he thought I was mentally ill, but he didn’t know I had been training.”
Bobbi Gibb, Boston Marathon 1966
When Gibb hid in the bushes near the start line in Hopkinton, Massachusetts in April 1966 (because women weren’t allowed to run the marathon back then), her sole aim was to run the distance because that is what she had trained to do. And since she had already run as far as 30 miles on training, it never dawned on her that the marathon was beyond her capability. Only male officials were of that opinion. 52 years later women’s competitions in major Marathons stand on par, and at times higher, than the men’s race. That is certainly the case in these next two weeks in Boston and London.
But let’s also recall that it wasn’t all that long ago when there was a school of thought that believed that trying to run the mile in under four minutes was as physically dangerous as trying to break the sound barrier in flight, another thought-to-be-impossible endeavor. That frisson of danger was a big part of why people were intrigued by long distance racing. Tragedy, after all, could happen, and you could be witness to it. Continue reading
Lahaina, Maui – In 2003 Michael Lewis published Moneyball, his book telling how the Oakland Athletics baseball team implemented a more efficient and cost-effective way to evaluate players and strategize game situations based solely on data analysis. This approach led the Athletics to player acquisitions that other teams had overlooked or disregarded, but more importantly, led to success on the diamond.
When the book came out, many a baseball expert was dismissive. But at some point they couldn’t argue with the success the A’s were having using their new methodology.
In the ensuing years, people in many other fields took up the Moneyball example to reevaluate their businesses, positing that if the old ways of analyzing baseball were in error, couldn’t other suppositions be open to reexamination, as well? Continue reading
Every year or so, the talk of the 2-Hour Marathon rises like some Kubrickian obelisk heralding the coming of a new age. Most recently, NYRR featured a Head to Head between English commentator Tim Hutchings and ex-USA Today scribe Dick Patrick – and, boy, don’t we miss his presence at the national rag? In Dick’s heyday in the 1980s through the 2000’s, each of the American marathon majors in Boston, Chicago and New York City would receive a full-page sport’s section preview with course map, athlete bios, and pace charts in the Friday edition before the race. This past October 5th USA Today printed not one word about the marathon in Chicago. It’s another striking confirmation how a once vibrant sport has been sundered by flatulent fun-run and charity fund-raising spectacles.
In any case, the 2-Hour Marathon. Dick thought it would happen in his lifetime. Tim thought not. I like numbers. Let them tell the tale.
Since Johnny Hayes ran 2:55:18 at the 1908 London Olympic Games to win the gold medal, the marathon distance has been officially recognized at 26 miles, 385 yards, or 42.195 kilometers. In the 104 years since, Mr. Hayes’ mark has been “officially” improved upon 37 separate times. Performances like Alberto Salazar’s 2:08:13 from NYC 1981 and Geoffrey Mutai’s 2:03:02 from Boston 2011 have come up either short on re-measurement, or deemed ineligible for record purposes due to point-to-point course layout.
So let’s stick with the officially recognized 37 world record improvement down to today’s 2:03:38 set in Berlin 2011 by Kenya’s Patrick Makau. Continue reading