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American marathoners


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  • American marathoners

    I'm currently re-reading Tom Derderian's history of the Boston Marathon -- a great book. Of course, everyone laments the current state of U.S marathoning, blah blah blah. I don't think the US was ever particularly good at marathoning besides the 70s and early 80s. Besides, we're decent on the women's side; it's our men that aren't so good.

    Anyway, I noticed something. It seems like a disproportionate number of American winners at Boston either grew up in New England or went to college there. (The BAA site lists a state for each winner, but the details are lacking.)

    Thinking about it further, New England has produced a disproportionate number of U.S. marathoners with big accomplishments (like winning Boston, winning an Olympic medal, setting a WR, or a top-3 ranking by T&FN). The exceptions that I can come up with are Khalid Khannouchi and Mark Plaatjes (naturalized citizens) and Buddy Edelen (as a marathoner, he was American by citizenship only). In the 70s, there were Moore, Bachelor, and Kardong -- but that was when the U.S. was unusually strong in the men's marathon.

    I'm just pulling this off the top of my head, so I'm sure you'll all correct me. But GH's monthly rant touched on America's inability to attract good track runners to the marathon as a major factor. It sure looks like Boston's status as a major sporting event attracted local elites to marathoning in general, and when it receded to sidebar-status the top runners began to ignore mrathoning.

    What do you think?

  • #2
    Re: American marathoners

    You dragged me in . . . in 1979 Dick Mahoney, a local from Weymouth, Massachusetts, ran the race of his life and crossed the line in 10th place with a 2:14. Surely, for an American, that was fabulous -- the local club must have jumping for joy that one of Mass' finest had placed so highly.

    He didn't even count in GBTC's scoring. There were THREE club members, all living and training in Massachusetts, that had crossed in front of him.

    1. Bill Rodgers, GBTC, 2:09.27 (still the club record)
    3. Bob Hodge, GBTC, 2:12.30
    7. Randy Thomas, GBTC, 2:14.20
    10. Dick "The Mailman" Mahoney, GBTC, 2:14.36

    a great resource which may answer some of your questions is Bob Hodge's website

    the "rememberances" are very good, and in some of the "races" sections there some great links to old articles about New England's marathoning heyday

    of course, I'll comment that we do have the world record holder in the marathon right now


    • #3
      Re: American marathoners

      >of course, I'll comment that we do
      >have the world record holder in the marathon
      >right now

      Hey, he's a true American, too. But it's the depth that sucks. Would Ken Young even give odds for the USA putting three men in the top ten in Athens? Even two would be nearly 1 million to one. On the other hand, it's hardly a stretch at all to imagine our women putting two in the top ten, and our depth is decent enough that all three isn't unthinkable.

      It seems to me that the lack of any depth in American marathoning is due to an inability to attract good athletes to the distance. (See Hill's monthly rant in the current T&FN.) Heck, if a high jumper like Marla Runyan can finish fifth at Boston, the USA must have the horses. They just aren't running the marathon (or even running, period.) And it seems like it's always been that way; if it's true that we've almost never had good marathoners from west of the Hudson river, then there's always been a lot of untapped potential.

      Larry Rawson said during the Boston telecast that there are nine Kenyan marathon training camps with more than 450 athletes. One simple reason they dominate is that most Kenyans with marathoning potential pursue it.