With the good and proper news that Welshman Steve Jones has been awarded the prestigious Members of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) by Queen Elizabeth II, I thought it would be fitting that we go back to the time when Steve first lifted his name into the marathoning spotlight along Lake Michigan with his 2:08:05 world record.
In those days, the sport was still heavily centered around the Boston – New York City axis. The London Marathon had only been around for four years, and the Los Angeles Marathon was still two years from its beginning. Bringing world-class competition beyond its East Coast roots was a major accomplishment for Chicago and an important factor in helping grow interest in the sport.
Jonesy’s stellar run in Chicago `84 also represented another turning point in the game. It marked the last time the men’s marathon world record would be set without the aid of pacesetters. Here, then is my contemporaneous race report from Chicago 1984, a day to remember in the annals of marathoning history and jumping off point for one of the great marathon careers of the all-time. Congratulations, Sir Steve!
Chicago, IL. — And then there was the weather, forty-four degrees with a wind-driven rain like an icy finger tracing the nape of your neck. Over 10,000 huddled runners jittered anxiously at the dual starting lines on Clark and Dearborn Streets for the 8:45 a.m. signal to begin the 8th America’s Marathon/Chicago (as it was known in those days).
On the front row stood some of the best marathoners in the world. “It’s the Olympics all over again”, said one punter as champions from every continent pawed the ground, anxious to be off on their heat-generating journey to Lincoln Park. This was no place for the skittish, rather an end-of-the-season, post-Olympic blowout engineered by Beatrice Foods sponsorship money and race director Bob Bright’s orchestration.
“The Games are over. We’ve nothing to lose. So let’s have a go,” was how Welshman Steve Jones prophetically put it the day before. (more…)