THE RISE OF US DISTANCE RUNNING
AMERICAN distance running is on a roll after firstly
Galen Rupp’s win in the Chicago Marathon last month and now Shalane Flanagan’s victory in the New York City Marathon last weekend. It is no overnight success story, though, as the origins can be traced back to the turn of the millennium.
Signs of a resurgence on the US endurance running scene were evident at the 2001 World Cross Country Championships in Ostend when Dathan Ritzenhein and Matt Tegenkamp interrupted the African dominance in the junior men’s race by placing an eye-catching third and fifth. Then, 12 months later at the World Cross in Dublin, Deena Kastor and Colleen de Reuck won minor medals behind Paula Radcliffe as the US women’s squad beat Kenya, among others, for team silver medals, while their junior and male team-mates also excelled.
Given this, I wrote a feature in AW headlined “The secret of American cross country success” which explained how the country was on track to rediscover the golden days of Frank Shorter, Craig Virgin, Bill Rodgers, Alberto Salazar, Mary Decker and Joan Benoit.
This growing success in 2002 was attributed to the birth of the ‘Team USA Distance Running Program’ two years earlier. It encouraged groups of athletes to train together at altitude camps and the philosophy has simply snow-balled in the last 17 years.
Two of the cross-country successes at Dublin 2002, Kastor and Meb Keflezighi, won Olympic marathon medals in 2004. This was followed by the emergence of stars like Kara Goucher, Evan Jager and, of course, Rupp and Flanagan. Last year Matt Centrowitz won Olympic 1500m gold and then Emma Coburn and Courtney Frerichs spectacularly beat the Africans to finish one-two in the steeplechase at London 2017.
For several years the US system has been a model that British athletics has tried to follow. Now, after Flanagan’s run in New York (p16-17), we can see why.
I WAS sad to hear my mentor during my early days at AW, Trevor Frecknall, lost his battle with cancer. I am not alone either as social media has been full of tributes and I’ve reported some of them in our obituary on page 27.