Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.

Tue, 28 Nov 2000 09:01:58 -0500

Big Day for America

(from RC 332)

It was possible that Khalid Khannouchi would run the slowest time of his career at the Chicago Marathon. If so, he might set an American record that wasn't the country's best time. This would have happened if he had run between 2:08:47 (the national best on an aided course) and 2:09:32 (the official U.S. record).

It didn't happen. Khannouchi won Chicago for the third time in four years and set his third type of record -- to go with his debut mark in 1997 and world record last year. His 2:07:01 cleared up American recordbook confusion by breaking David Morris' official record by 2-1/2 minutes and Bob Kempainen's aided U.S. best by almost two.

Even without Khannouchi's heroics, October 22nd would have been a great day for Americans. Even without three other men making the top 10 there... without Eric Mack running 2:12:42 in his first marathon and Josh Cox PRing by six minutes with 2:13:54... without U.S. women placing 6-7-8, Christine Junkerman debuting in 2:32:45 and 41-year-old Mary Knisely running 2:37:41... without Joan Samuelson's 15-year-old course record surviving its biggest test, this would have been a great day.

(Cox and Junkerman gave notice that Fila's new development program for Americans already is working. Both had spent 10 weeks at a training camp in the California mountains.)

This Sunday was great for reasons that Hal Higdon pointed out in an NPR interview on Saturday. "Look at what's happening an hour, or two or three hours behind Khalid," said the sport's senior writer and an adviser to thousands of runners through his website (

This backward glance shows the truest profile of the overall vitality of U.S. marathoning. That health hasn't wavered during the downturn at the top and has never been more robust than now.

Along with Chicago, look to the Marine Corps Marathon, which pays no prize money and has modest winning times. Some 45,000 runners finished just these two races on one day.

Few other countries, if any, draw that many all year. Yet this is only one-tenth of the year's total marathoner count in the U.S. This type of world leadership counts for more than if a few runners upfront go faster and place higher.

Running at Marine Corps was Dr. David Satcher, the U.S. Surgeon General. "My intent was to stay incognito," he told Associated Press last week. "But as you can see, that didn't work."

The nation's doctor-in-chief said that the marathon "means a lot to this country. It has encouraged a lot of people to become physically active, and that means a lot to me as surgeon general."

Satcher added, "I've never done a marathon because I never thought I had time to train. In the last two months I've traveled over 100,000 miles, but I've been able to train. I guess my message to everybody is that we all have time to be physically active."


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