Updated 18 March 2008
Marilson Gomes DOS SANTOS, Brazil
(5000m, 10,000m, Half Marathon,
Marathon, Cross Country)
Born 6 August 1977, Brasilia, Brazil
Lives in Geralmenta
Coach: Adauto Domingues
Marilson Gomes dos Santos is currently the best South American distance runner and he became a celebrity in his country after winning the 2006 New York City Marathon. His success follows that of Brazilian predecessors such as Ronaldo da Costa (former marathon world record holder) and Vanderlei Cordero de Lima (2004 Olympic marathon bronze medallist).
But Dos Santos stands out not only in road races but also on the track. In the last two seasons, he has broken the 5000 and 10,000m South American records, both having lasted more than a decade.
Coming to athletics when he was 15-years-old, Dos Santos reflected: “I started running as a hobby, without the slightest intention of taking it seriously. But things began evolving and the results appeared after that.” As he was born to a humble family, he found that income from athletics could improve his family’s quality of life. “I decided to go out in front and I became a top level athlete, trying always to perform at my best in each event”, he said.
Because of his physique, Dos Santos decided at once to train for long distances and he attained good results as a junior, qualifying for the 1996 World Junior Championships in Sydney, finishing 11th in his heat of the 5,000m (14:30.99). Despite his fine performances in Brazil, when he began to compete as a senior he could not take part in international races as he did not receive enough economic support.
Dos Santos was good on the track but he was drawn into road races, where he could make more money. With this came greater personal happiness and recognition from the public. He stood out in Sao Silvestre, which is the most popular competition in Brazil. It takes place every 31 December in Sao Paulo, where more than 15,000 people run 15km across the city. Dos Santos was 2nd in 2002 and victorious in 2003 and 2005. As a result, a lot of fans began to follow him.
Yet, life seems not to be easy for the South American athlete. Dos Santos is used to training by himself since there aren’t many other athletes who can equal his marks in Brazil. On one hand, that appears not to be a benefit to him, but on the other hand, he doesn’t depend on pacemakers during races and can focus simply on competition.
Dos Santos is married to Juliana Paula Santos de Azevedo, an 800 and 1500m runner, who is six years younger than him. “I sometimes share the training sessions with my wife; but our disciplines are so different that the training routines are generally dissimilar too,” he explained.
In 2004, Dos Santos made his marathon debut in Paris, finishing 6th (2:12.22). A few months later, he was 6th in Chicago but improved to 2:08.46. He finished 10th in the 2005 World Championships, in Helsinki, before making a big impression on the 37th edition of the New York City Marathon in 2006.
Even though he had trained hard for that competition, Dos Santos was not one of the favourites. But he prevailed to become the first South American athlete, man or woman, to win the race. His victory was even more unexpected as the field included Paul Tergat, the title defender and world record holder at the time, and Italian Stefano Baldini, the Olympic champion.
“I’m so happy to have won New York Marathon,” Dos Santos said. “That race is the best one among the best ones. There were a few great runners, but I was one of them. You need courage to come first, and today I had a lot of courage to go ahead and win the race.” His victory, though, was overshadowed in the media which focused more on Lance Armstrong’s victory. But, on a happier note, the $130,000 was his biggest prize in return for having decided to be a professional distance runner.
“My victory did not surprise me because I knew about my physical condition and how well I had prepared myself for the race,” Dos Santos added. “My only fear was the weather because in Brazil it’s very hot. As it turned out, I did not have any problems with the weather, maybe because I protected myself with gloves and a hat that in Brazil I don’t have to use.” He wore black gloves and sleeves up over his biceps, a black cap, and yellow tank top.
Once he was back in Brazil, Dos Santos was invited onto a lot of TV programmes and many media chose him as the best sportsman of the year. Lula da Silva, president of Brazil, gave him a medal in order to commemorate his achievement. “Wherever I go in Brazil, there’s always someone who recognises me on the streets and asks me for my autograph,” he added. “In my country, the sport is growing in popularity.”
During holidays, Dos Santos likes spending some time with his family, travelling abroad and attending parties with his wife. Besides, like every Brazilian citizen, he loves going to the beach.
On the track in 2007, Dos Santos focused on the Rio de Janeiro Pan American Games. Four years before, in Santo Domingo, he had won the silver medal at 10,000m and the bronze at 5000m. Therefore, this time he wanted to win both titles. Yet, he achieved the same medals as in 2003.
In the “Nacht van de Euregio” meeting in Neerpelt, Belgium, he was 4th at 10,000m but broke the South American record with 27:28.12, defeating Argentine Antonio Silio’s mark (27:38.72 in 1994). Moreover, he was happy to have shared the event with his wife who achieved her PB 1500m. Since then, they have tried to travel together so as not to spend much time separated from each other.
Also in 2007 Dos Santos was 7th in World Road Running Championships, in Udine, Italy, where he broke the South America half marathon record with 59:33. In addition, he set South American best marks in 10km, 15km and 20km during the race. In the London Marathon earlier in the year he had improved his PB to 2:08:37 but, defending his title, he managed only 8th place in New York.
In 2008 Dos Santos won the South American Cross Championships over 12km in Asunción, Paraguay, and now he dreams of winning a medal at the World Cross Country Championships in Edinburgh, Scotland. Although an outsider for the podium, he just may cause a surprise.
5000m: 13:19.43, AR (2006)
10,000m: 27:28.12, AR (2007)
10km: 27:48, AR (2007)
15km: 42:15, AR (2007)
20km: 56:32, AR (2007)
Half Marathon: 59:33, AR (2007)
25km: 1:15:38 (2004)
30km: 1:30:37 (2004)
Marathon: 2:08:37 (2007)
5,000m: 1996: 14:18.3; 1997: 14:08.1; 1998: 14:20.08; 1999: 13:54.14; 2000: 13:52.19; 2001: 14:03.47; 2002: 14:00.68; 2003: 13:48.52; 2004: 13:48.07; 2005: 13:40.8; 2006: 13:19.43 (AR); 2007: 13:22.11
10,000m: 1996: 29:52.5; 1997: 29:30.41; 1998: 29:12.05; 1999: 28:54.9; 2000: 28:38.87; 2001: 29:02.89; 2002: 28:34.59; 2003: 28:22.58; 2004: 28:21.38; 2005: 29:05.42; 2006: 27:48.49; 2007: 27:28.12 (AR)
1995 2nd South American Junior Championships (Santiago) 14:36.88
1996 2nd South American Junior Championships (Bucaramanga) 14:48.3
11th (heat) World Junior Championships (Sydney) 14:30.99
2003 1st South American Championships (Barquisimeto) 13:52.15
2nd Pan American Games (Santo Domingo) 28:22.58
3rd Pan American Games (Santo Domingo) 13:56.90
2006 1st Ibero-American Championships (Ponce) 13:42.88
5th World Cup (Athens) 13:47.15
2007 2nd Pan American Games (Rio de Janeiro) 28:09.30
3rd Pan American Games (Rio de Janeiro) 13:30.68
Cross country & Road
1996 2nd South American Junior Cross Championships (Asunción)
1997 1st World University Games (Sicilia), half marathon 1:03:32
1999 1st World University Games (Palma Mallorca), half marath. 1:04:05
2000 2nd Half Marathon Rio de Janeiro 1:02:12
2002 2nd Half Marathon Rio de Janeiro 1:03:35
2nd Sao Silvestre (São Paulo) 45:06
2003 1s Sao Silvestre (São Paulo) 43:49
2004 1st Half Marathon Medellín 1:03:56
2005 1st Sao Silvestre (Sao Paulo) 44:21
2007 7th World Road Championships (Udine), half marathon 59:33AR
2008 1st South American Cross Championships (Asunción)
2004 6th Paris Marathon 2:12:22
6th Chicago Marathon 2:08:46
2005 10th World Championships (Helsinki) 2:13:40
2006 1st New York City Marathon 2:09:58
2007 8th London Marathon 2:08:37
8th New York City Marathon 2:13:47
Prepared by Víctor Pochat for the IAAF “Focus on Athletes” project. Copyright IAAF 2008.