Dr.J. on Running


Khalid Khannouchi

2:05:38 WR

Published , 2002 in The Syracuse Post-Standard.

By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer

Khalid Khannouchi won the 2002 London Marathon in 2 hours 5 minutes 38 seconds yesterday (Sunday 14 April 2002), setting new American and World Records. With much of the civilized world watching live on television, Khannouchi asserted his status as the fastest marathoner on earth, he defeating both Paul Tergat of Kenya and Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia, who finished in 2:05:48 and 2:06:35.

Paula Radcliffe won the women's race in 2:18:56 in the second fastest women's marathon time ever, setting British and course records. She finished almost 4 minutes ahead of runner-up Svetlana Zakharova from Russia.

Under calm and cool conditions in the British capital, Prince Andrew the Duke of York started the race at nine o'clock local time. The women's race started first, after a minute of silence for the passing of Britain's Queen Mother. The elite women wore black ribbons out of respect.

The men's race followed at 9:45. The long-anticipated showdown between Khannouchi, arguably the world's best road racer, and Tergat and Gebrselassie, the world's best track runners, lived up to expectations. A blistering pace of 28:36 at six miles gave Khannouchi an early taste of the battle ahead. Ironically, a much slower pace had forced him out of the 2001 World Championships in Edmonton with severe foot blisters.

The lead pack passed 12 miles in 57:26, with defending champion Abdelkader El Mouaziz battling Gebrsellasie in the front. Mouaziz eventually dropped back to finish fourth. Meanwhile, the Khannouchi-Tergat-Gebrsellasie trio maintained their record pace through mile 24, before the pace took its toll.

At shorter distances, a close finish usually favors the track runner over the road racer. However, the marathon exerts unusual demands on the human body and mind, disproving the theories of track runners as kickers. In a strategic race from the starting gun, attrition took its toll on the Africans, and gave the American the benefit of his marathon experience. With less than a mile left, Khannouchi put on a final surge that dropped Tergat and sealed the record.

Khannouchi's performance was nothing short of spectacular. He battled chronic injuries since his 2:05:42 world record run at Chicago in October 1999 and the controversy that surrounded his bid to represent the USA at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. His disappointing races led skeptics to speculate that his competitive days had passed.

However, Khannouchi stunned the world on the greatest marathon day in history. With the top five runners sharing over 30 world records among them, and all five setting personal records at London, Khannouchi became the first American man in almost forty years to set a world best in the marathon.

© 2002 The Post-Standard.

Kamal Jabbour runs and writes on the hills of Pompey, New York. His RUNNING Column appears in The Syracuse Post-Standard on Mondays. Dr.J. created TrackMeets.com, webcasting live Every Lap of Every Race. He receives email at jabbour@i2sports.com.