How far, how fast? Who’s first, who’s next?
The first modern Olympic games were held in Athens Greece from April 6th to 15th, 1896. 280 male athletes from 12 different countries competed in 43 events. There were twelve track-and-field events held at the ancient Panathinaiko Stadium which was built around 300 B.C and is the ONLY stadium in the world constructed entirely of marble.
One world record (WR) was set, a few Olympic Records (OR) were established, and nine of the 12 events were won by Americans. The events and winners were:
100 m USA Thomas Burke 12.0
400 m USA Thomas Burke 54.2
800 m AUS Edwin Flack 2:11.0
1500 m AUS Edwin Flack 4:33.2
110 m hurdles USA Thomas Curtis 17.6 OR
Marathon GREECE Spyidon Louis 2:58:50 OR (finish line at stadium)
Long jump USA Ellery Harding Clark 6.35 OR
Triple jump USA James Brendan Connolly 13.71 OR
High jump USA Ellery Clark 1.81 OR
Pole vault USA William Hoyt 3.30 (height)
Shot put USA Robert Garrett 11.22 OR
Discus throw USA Robert Garrett 29.15 WR
The most notable of these twelve events for the modern runner is the 100m dash and the marathon.
In 2009, the world’s fastest man Usain Bolt set the current world record for the 100 meter in an incredible 9.58 seconds.
When Spyidon Louis ran that first modern marathon on April 10th , 1896 he entered the record books to great fanfare. On the last lap he was joined in the run by the crown prince of Greece, and their entrance into the Panathinaiko to cross the finish line interrupted the pole vault event already in progress. Spyidon became a national hero, and retired from racing.
For the rest of the 20th century, marathon runners chipped away at his 2 hours 58 minutes and 50 seconds. In 1925 Albert Michelsen (USA) got it under 2:30 when he ran 2:29:01.8 on October 12th. By 1963, the record was whittled to under 2:15 when Leonard Edelen (USA) ran 2:14:28 on June 15th. The record time remained above two hours for the remainder of the 20th Century and was down to 2:05:42 set by Khalid Khannouchi (Morocco) on October 24th 1999 at the Chicago Marathon. The current world record holder of the marathon is Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya. He ran 2:01:39 on September 16, 2018 at the Berlin Marathon. He is ALSO the first man in history to run a marathon in less than 2 hours, an feet he accomplished in Vienna in 1:59:40 on October 12th, 2019.
(This is NOT considered an official world record because it was not run in open marathon conditions, and was set on a course cherry-picked for speed. Kipchoge was accompanied by a dense rotation of pacesetters, and the event is considered to be a symbolic record.)
Sadly, the mile is NOT an Olympic event although the mile is a standard for all modern professional middle distance runners.
Roger Bannister was the first man to run the mile in under 4 minutes, on May 6, 1954. His time was 3:59.4 and John Landy followed 46 days later with a time of 3:57.9 . To date, over 1,400 athletes have broken a four-minute mile. The current record holder is Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco who ran 3:43.13 on July 7th 1999.
The point is this, the two most important record holders as far as the world is concerned are the person who established the first record, because there is ONLY one first time, and the current record holder because that is the mark to beat! Only elite runners will ever hold world records and compete in the Olympics, and that’s OK! The level of training and dedication needed to reach that tier of competition far exceeds the commitment times of the average runner. A lot of sacrifices need to be made, and even if you do manage to set a new world record, it’s only a matter of time before a younger. faster athlete claims the title. No matter how fast you are, there is always someone faster.
This is why the PERSONAL RECORD or PR is vital for the average athlete or weekend warrior. Seeing one’s progress is an essential tool for continued encouragement and self-esteem. I will never be an Olympic runner, nor will I ever be considered elite. Last year I set PR after PR, so I have my own times to beat. I managed to break into the top-five in my division TWICE last year, claiming 5th place each time.
Last week, I had my most unusual 5K race ever. I was pacing myself differently, concentrating on my cadence and my breathing in a attempt to improve my time which has taken a nose-dive this year. You tend to know who you are competing against in your division, and the final leg of the race I was neck and neck with fellow Clydesdale Joe Marano. It’s great to have someone of a similar pace to run against. Iron sharpens iron! I HONESTLY BELIEVED there was one spot left in the top 5 for Clydesdales, and I was eager to reclaim that honor. I let Joe know in no uncertain terms that I was not giving up, and like Rocky and Apollo Creed we were going to the 9th round! I had the EYE OF THE TIGER! With 100 yards to the finish line Joe cried “LET’S DO THIS!” and we both broke into a mad dash for the finish line. I have never had to race against a competitor in the final seconds of a race, and I gave it everything I had. Joe beat me by ONE SECOND. 38:40 vs 38:41.
As dumb luck would have it, the 5th place spot had already been claimed ten minutes earlier, we actually placed 7th and 8th respectively. Joe was better than me that day, he beat me fair and square. I still have another five races in this series to attempt to break back into the top 5 once again. It may NOT happen this year. 28 minutes is 5 minutes faster than my PR for a 5K. Every race is different, and the runners in the starting line-up changes constantly. Best I can do is to try and chip away at my time each race.
I’m content with being in the top five, and taking 4th place is my NEXT GOAL. I may NEVER achieve a first place victory, but I’m a million times better than the couch-potatoes who choose not to run. Becoming a runner back in 2019 changed my life for the better!
You can find me at these upcoming races:
Be sure to check back on June 13th for another article.
As always, I wish you success and happiness!