Tag: Paavo Nurmi


Never Done Better

In light of his other-worldly 2:01:39 marathon world record in Berlin last Sunday, there are some who are hailing Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge as the G.O.A.T, the greatest of all time male distance runner.  Berlin was arguably the crowning achievement of his career, but does that mark added to the rest of his curriculum vitae  make a case for GOAT?  Let’s dig in and see.

GOAT Marathoner?  Yes, indisputably, with ten wins in 11 starts, which include an Olympic gold medal and a 2:00:25 fastest ever exhibition, there isn’t anyone who can argue that point. But GOAT distance runner? That, I think, may be a step too far, though certainly he is in the top five. 

A century ago the GOAT title was first held by Paavo Nurmi, the “Flying Finn” who dominated running in the early 20th century. Nurmi set 22 official world records at distances between 1500 meters and 20km, and won nine gold and three silver medals in Olympic competition. At his peak, Nurmi went undefeated in 121 straight races from 800 meters up, and was never beaten in cross country or the 10,000 meters.

In the 1950s the great Emil Zatopek, known as the “Czech Locomotive”, re-wrote the record books and introduced the concept of interval training. His Olympic Triple in Helsinki 1952 where he won the 5000, 10,000, and the marathon in his debut at the distance, all in Olympic record times, remains an unparalleled achievement. From there the GOAT crown moved south to East Africa where it resides to this day.  (more…)




Geoffrey Mutai

Now that Athletics Kenya has made its Sophie’s Choice for their 2012 Olympic Men’s Marathon team, it seems cruelly unfair that both history’s fastest marathoner, Geoffrey Mutai, and the official world record holder, Patrick Makau, will not be Olympians in London 2012.  All of which makes one stop to consider how this wholly unsatisfactory outcome might eventually be corrected.

Patrick Makau

While competitions on the track are restricted by the availability of lanes, thereby making it necessary to limit competitors to a qualified three-per-nation, the marathon is contested over open road, negating the space restriction argument.  Therefore, is it time for the IAAF to lobby for an open marathon format where, if not any qualified athlete can enter, then at least five runners per nation would be fielded with an accompanying team medal formulation added like in World Cross Country?

The New York Road Runners recently posted a Head-to-Head debate between ex-USA Today Olympic writer Dick Patrick and former New York Times Sports editor Neil Amdur on the value of staging a separate half-marathon in the Olympic Games.  Neil gave the idea a qualified thumbs up, while Dick replied, “Not so fast, my friend.”

While I might suggest an Olympic Ekiden Relay as a better choice which would include more athletes and be purely team-based, nowhere in Dick and Neil’s back-and-forth was the idea of an Olympic Half Marathon or marathon team medals forwarded for the express purpose of elevating the distinct sport of Road Racing into the pantheon alongside Track & Field via the Olympic imprimatur. Yet as more and more hybrid sports continue to sprout up, more and more of them are finding space on the Olympic schedule, while the very historic and distinct sports of cross country and road racing remain locked out without even an advocacy coming from their governing body. (more…)