Marathon record safe in 2004

Echoing the thoughts of many fellow athletes, retired and active, world marathon record-holder Paul Tergat said yesterday that the classic route for the Athens Olympics would be exceptionally tough. The Kenyan long-distance runner, who set a spectacular world record of two hours, four minutes and 55 seconds last September in Berlin, knocking 43 seconds off the previous world best, contended yesterday that the pace of the Athens course would be at least 15 minutes slower. «I don’t see any world record in Athens… it’s impossible,» he told reporters in Rome following his appointment as ambassador against hunger for the World Food Program. «Athens is a very difficult course. It’s hilly and, especially at that time of the year, humid. It’s really a tactical race… At the Olympics, the guy might win in 2:20,» added the athlete. The fastest time clocked on Athens’s 42.2-kilometer (26.1-mile) route belongs to British veteran Bill Adcocks, who ran it in 2:11.07 back in April, 1969, a brilliant performance considering the results of others over the years. Adcocks had run 2:10.48, elsewhere, a year earlier, then the third fastest time in history. Despite his sensational performance in the Athens Marathon, Adcocks, now 62, failed to win an Olympic medal during his career. But he did win a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games in 1966. Recalling his historic feat in Athens on a visit to the city two years ago, Adcocks noted: «That was my day of days, I only ran 19 seconds slower than my personal best, set on a completely flat course at Fukuoka [Japan]. I had the impression on that day I could have run up a mountain.» The Athens course is no mountain, but a long uphill stretch makes it a major challenge, or, according to many tested world-class marathon runners, the most difficult of major city races. An uphill stretch begins around the 17-kilometer (10-mile) mark and continues for about 15 kilometers (9 miles). Runners at the Athens Olympics next summer will almost certainly also need to persevere under the anticipated scorching August sun. The starting time has been switched to the evening to try and keep runners cool. The annual Athens Marathon race, traditionally held during far cooler weather in late fall, produced a time of 2:16.59 from its most recent winner, Tanzania’s Zebedayo Bayo, last November. Kenya’s Stephen Rugut came in second seven seconds later. Bayo’s time was just over the times set on the course during two major international events hosted by Athens in the past. Dutchman Gerard Nijboer, winner of the marathon race at the European Track and Field Championships in 1982, and Spain’s Abel Anton, who won a world marathon title in Athens in 1997, ran similar times. Both ran in hot conditions – Nijboer, on a hot September day, and Anton, in August. The race, which starts in Marathon and ends at the all-marble Panathenaic Stadium, where the first modern Olympics were held in 1896, traces the legendary route taken in 490 BC by Pheidippides, who ran from the ancient town to Athens to announce Greek victory against the invading Persians.

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