Paula Radcliffe running in the 2003 London Marathon (Getty Images) © Copyright
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2003 - Marathon & Race Walking Review

The Marathon running and Race Walking highlights of 2003. Renowned statisticians A. Lennart Julin and Mirko Jalava continue their end of season review - Part Four of eight instalments.

MEN - Marathon and Race Walking

The marathon revolution of recent years showed no sign of coming to an end in 2003 – rather the opposite. At the very top 2003 compared more than favourably with the whole previous history of the event. The top-10 runners of 2003 averaged 2:06:12 while the top-10 of all-time before 2003 averaged 2:06:16!!

The driving force in this ongoing process continued to be Kenya and its seemingly endless supply of new marathon talent. The main Kenyan coups this year were two new bests:

* Evans Rutto with 2:05:50 in Chicago making the fastest ever marathon début!
* Paul Tergat with 2:04:55 in Berlin making the fastest ever marathon!

However, one might say that our own - and athletic history’s - traditional almost obsessive fascination with the ’record’ concept was especially unfair to one athlete this year, Kenya's Sammy Korir!

While Paul Tergat has been celebrated in every possible way for his fantastic new marathon time (which will become the first official World record for the event on 1 January 2004), almost nothing has been said or written about Sammy Korir although he finished just one single second behind Tergat in the race! One single second in a total of almost 7,500 seconds!

What makes Sammy Korir’s running worth much more respect and appreciation is that he didn’t just passively hang on to Tergat for 42 kilometres, he had done most of the pacemaking crucial to the eventual time achieved.

Furthermore, if two runners could be so close all the way to the finish line in the race, the time achived will most likely come under threat very soon again.

However, Kenya’s statistical dominance has never manifestated itself in the championship setting. Paris 2003 was no exception, six Kenyan runners started and only one finished – Michael Rotich who was 8th, some two minutes behind Moroccan winner Jaouad Gharib!

Race Walking
In total contrast to marathon running, the major championships are regarded by every top race walker as the most attractive and important competition of the year, it is 'right then and there' that everybody wants to hit peak form. This year the top competitors were very successful in this ambition at the World Championships in Paris.

At 20 km Jefferson Perez (ECU) won in emphatic fashion and with perfect timing at the finish clocked 1:17:21, just one second faster than the previous world best time for the distance.  Behind the winner three more finished in 1:18:00-1:18.14 with the former “record holder” Francisco Javier Fernandez of Spain taking the silver.

At 50 km it was of course “business as usual” with Poland’s Robert Korzeniowski adding to his reputation as one of the all-time greats with one more gold medal and in the process lowering his own one year old (European Championships in Munich) World best time by over half a minute, down to 3:36:03.

Yet Korzeniowski did not go unchallenged, with German Skurygin in second place moving into number two position of all-time with his 3:36:42. And the next three finishers – Andreas Erm (GER) , the Russians Aleksey Voyevodin and Denis Nizhegorodov – also moved into positions on the top-8 of all-time.

Click here for a link to the IAAF Race Walking Challenge 2003

WOMEN – Marathon and Race Walking

Paula Radcliffe (GBR) continued to lower the marathon World best. As expected after her 2:17:18 last year, she was able to run much faster. However, to take a further three minutes off the mark this year, was still an achievement of the greatest magnitude.

Radcliffe won the London Marathon in 2:15:25, at the end of the year more than four minutes faster than Sun Yingjie (CHN), who was second on the world lists with 2:19:39, which set the new Asian best at the Beijing Marathon (19 Oct).

At the World Championships, Radcliffe was injured and could not take part in any Paris competition at all, and Sun (2:25:33 in 2003 prior to Paris + 2:21:21 PB from 2002) doubled at 5000m/10,000m. Yet Paris was still graced by Kenya’s Catherine Ndereba, the third sub 2:20 runner in 2003 behind Radcliffe and Sun. She took the win in a fast 2:23:55.

Overall, during the year some of the depth in the event was lost, there were only 80 women under 2:30, as opposed to 87 in 2002. Also, 10th place in the world lists was slower this year, 2:23:07 against 2:22:33 last year.

20km Race Walking
2003 was the season when Olimpiada Ivanova did not make the podium. The Russian, having won many titles during the last few years, including the 2001 World Championships and last season’s European Championships in Munich, could not finish the race in Paris.

Overall, the progress in the event has frozen a bit although the 1:26:22 world leading time by Yelena Nikolayeva was a bit faster than Ivanova’s time in 2002.

However, some things did not change, the Russians stayed at the top of the world lists and they also won the World Championships. It was Nikolayeva who took the gold in Paris in 1:26:52, only 30 seconds below her world lead.

The 20th place in the world lists was again under 1:30, at 1:29:34, over a minute faster than the same placing in 2002.

Also a World junior best was achieved, 18-year-old Song Hongjuan (CHN) won the National Championships in 1:27:16, but she was later disqualified in Paris. 

Click here for a link to the IAAF Race Walking Challenge 2003

NOTE - As approved by the 44th IAAF Congress in Paris, as of 1 January 2004 official IAAF Road World Records will be recognised, under the same conditions as the previous IAAF World Bests, in the following events: Running for both men and women - 10km, 15km, 20km, Half Marathon, 25km, 30km, Marathon, 100km and Road Relay (with stages of 5-10-5-10-5-7.195km); Race Walking - Men: 20km and 50km, Women: 20km, Juniors: 10km.