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Marathon - Part 4 1969

A history of the Fukuoka International Marathon Championships

The fourth  part of a detailed series of historical reports on the Fukuoka International Marathon by K. Ken Nakamura….
1969

For four straight years, a runner from a British Commonwealth country won the prestigious Fukuoka International Marathon Championships. Not only did Jerome Drayton of Canada win the race in the fifth fastest time in history, 2:11:12.8, but he also displayed some of the most impressive front running tactics in history. In the process becoming the third fastest marathon runner ever.

Some of the fastest marathons were run in 1969. First on April 6, on the tough Marathon-to-Athens course which includes a 250m elevation gain, the 1968 Fukuoka marathon champion Bill Adcocks ran the third fastest time ever, 2:11:07.2. Then on May 30 in Antwerp Belgium, Australian Derek Clayton who ran the first sub 2:10 marathon (2:09:36.4) in the 1967 Fukuoka International Marathon improved his world best time by more than a minute to 2:08:33.6. This record endured until the 1981 Fukuoka marathon when another Australian Rob de Castella improved it to 2:08:18.

Although Clayton and Adcocks were not invited, the organisers still lined up an impressive list of runners. Heading the list of invited runners was Mamo Wolde, the 1968 Olympic marathon Champion. Following the race’s original intention of inviting the winners from the major marathons of the year, Ron Hill, the 1969 European marathon Champion and Yoshiaki Unetani the1969 Boston marathon Champion were invited. However, Jerome Drayton, who won the 1969 Motor City marathon in Detroit was not invited, despite recording the third fastest time of the year, 2:12:00, which made him the fifth fastest marathon runner in history at the time. He had to find a sponsor to pay for his trip to Fukuoka, and this may have been the reason why he ran with such vengeance in such difficult conditions.

Drayton, whose travel expenses was eventually paid by the Canadian government, arrived in Fukuoka on December 5, two days before the race. "In spite of recording the third fastest time of year, 2:12:00, I was not invited to the race. I will win the race tomorrow," said Jerome Drayton in the pre-race interview.

Drayton, of Ukrainian parents was born in Germany, and immigrated to Canada in 1958. Ten years later, he ran in the Mexico City Olympic marathon representing Canada but he dropped out of the race around 20km. However, the name Jerome Drayton cannot be found in any Olympic marathon records, for he ran under his former name Peter Buniak. After the Olympics, in March of 1969, Peter Buniak changed his name to Jerome Drayton.

"Ever since I was 10 years old, I disliked my name Buniak," said Drayton. "So after the Mexico City Olympics, I looked through European phone books in hope of finding a name I would like. I found a name Jerome Drayton and adopted it as my name. Soon after my name change, I started winning races," explained Drayton of the process how he changed his name. But the question remains. Is it a pure coincidence that sprinters named Harry Jerome (CAN) and Paul Drayton (USA) were both medallists at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games?

Akio Usami was considered the top Japanese runner of the year. Usami recorded the second fastest performance (2:11:27.8) by a Japanese at the 1969 Antwerp marathon on May 30 when he finished second to Derek Clayton. Other prominent Japanese in the race were Sei-ichiro Sasaki and Tadaaki Ueoka. However, Kenji Kimihara, one of the most successful marathon runners in Japan, having finished 8th, 2nd, (and 5th in 1972) in the Olympic Games had to miss the race due to a persistent injury to his left knee. He said, "Since I have yet to run the Fukuoka marathon, I really wanted to run the race this year." Also absent from the race were Toru Terasawa, a 1964 Olympian, and Morio Shigematsu, a one-time holder of a world best marathon performance.

For the first time in the four-year history of the Fukuoka International Marathon championships, it rained on the race day. The race had a reputation for good weather, in fact, counting back from the Asahi International marathon era, it was the first time in 15 years, that measurable rain was observed during the race.

The race started in the steady rain, and Drayton took the lead immediately. He led the pack out of the Heiwadai stadium, and by 5km (15:11), he was four seconds ahead of the chase pack. While the runners in the chase pack were looking at each other, Drayton was pulling further and further ahead. Although the chase pack was 21 seconds behind Drayton at 10km, the pace for the chase pack was still fast enough for the race to turn into the race of attrition. The first contender to fell behind the chase pack was Yoshiaki Unetani who was second in 1968. He eventually finished 29th in 2:22:28.4. Other prominent Japanese, Sei-ichiro Sasaki, a Japanese national marathon record holder, and Tadaaki Ueoka who was third in 1968 did not look good either and they were the next casualties. Sasaki and Ueoka finished 36th and 50th respectively.

As Drayton kept up his pace, his lead steadily increased and by the half marathon (1:05:08), he was 31 seconds ahead of the chase pack. Perhaps, since Drayton was not an invited runner, runners in the chase pack expected him to come back to the pack. The race of attrition continued in the chase pack, and by the half way, ten runners - Ron Hill, Pablo Garrido, Kenny Moore, Jeff Julian, Mitsunori Kaneyuki, Toshiharu Sasaki, Akio Usami, Hayami Tanimura, Akio Yoshida, and Kunio Fujita - were left in the pack. A few kilometres later five runners - Hill, Garrido, Kaneyuki, Sasaki and Tanimura - finally picked up the pace (15:22 for 20km to 25km) in an attempt to reel Drayton in; but the gap was actually widening since Drayton also increased his pace (15:15 for 20km to 25km).

At 30km, Tanimura made a courageous move; he broke away from the chase pack in his bid to catch Drayton. Although Taminura was ahead of Hill, Garrido and Toshiharu Sasaki by 15 seconds at 35km, he was still 50 seconds behind Drayton. After 30km, Drayton kept on looking behind to see where his competitors were, but he was so far ahead of the chase pack, he could not see them. Meanwhile, the 1968 Olympic Champion, Mamo Wolde dropped out of the race at 30km due to leg cramp caused by cold rain.

Finally after 35km, pre-race favourite Ron Hill who later admitted that he miss-judged the pace started to chase the leaders - Drayton and Tanimura. Although Hill pulled even with Tanimura by 40km, it was too late to catch Drayton who was still 59 seconds ahead. As Hill and Tanimura entered the stadium, Hill pulled ahead and finished nine seconds ahead of Hayami Tanimura. But, it was front running at its best for Drayton who won the race by leading from the start to finish. The Japanese newspaper described the race as the most impressive display of the front running since the 1964 Tokyo Olympic marathon.

All the runners who finished in the top 10 set personal bests, an amazing feat considering the difficult conditions brought on by cold steady rain. It also re-wrote the all-time performance list and the best-mark-for-place (see below). Drayton who described his victory as the happiest moment of his life sent a telegram to his parents in Toronto to inform them of the greatest victory in his life.

In the post-race interview he said, "It was cold, but since I was in good shape, I was looking to run 2:11 to 2:12." When asked about the race tactics, Drayton continued, "Yes, I was planning to lead from the gun."

For Ron Hill, 1969 was a breakthrough year, having won the National Championships and the European Championships, before finishing second in the Fukuoka marathon. The following year, he won the Boston marathon with the course record time of 2:10:30, and followed it up with the Commonwealth Games Gold medal in Edinburgh. The first Japanese, Hayami Tanimura who was coached by Toru Terasawa, improved his PR (2:16:42 from the 1968 Fukuoka marathon) by more than four and a half minutes; in the process moving up to be the eighth fastest performer in history.

The annual Track & Field News ranking once again confirmed the prestige of the Fukuoka marathon. For four straight years, the winner of the Fukuoka marathon was ranked as the best marathon runner of the year, while the second place finisher ranked as the second best marathon runner by the magazine.

December 7, 1969, Rain 15C, Humidity 95 % (JPN unless otherwise noted)

1) Jerome Drayton (CAN) 2:11:12.8
2) Ron Hill (GBR) 2:11:54.4
3) Hayami Tanimura 2:12.03.4
4) Pablo Garrido (MEX) 2:12:52.8
5) Toshiharu Sasaki 2:13:06.4
6) Akio Yoshida 2:13:21.0
7) Kenny Moore (USA) 2:13:27.8
8) Jeff Julian (NZL) 2:14:38.0
9) Kunio Fujita 2:15:22.4
10) Mitsunori Kaneyuki 2:15:37.2
...
14) Akio Usami 2:18:33.2
...
29) Yoshiaki Unetani 2:22:28.4
...
36) Sei-ichiro Sasaki 2:23:54.2
...
50) Tadaaki Ueoka 2:27:15.0
...
Mamo Wolde (ETH) DNF

Splits for Drayton
5Km 15:11
10Km 30:42 (15:31)
15Km 46:12 (15:30)
20Km 1:01:45 (15:33)
Half Marathon 1:05:08
25Km 1:17:00 (15:15)
30Km 1:32:29 (15:29)
35Km 1:48:03 (15:31)
40Km 2:04:02 (15:59)
42.195Km 2:11:12.8 (7:10.8)

All-time marathon performance list after the 1969 Fukuoka marathon

Derek Clayton 2:08:33.6 1st Antwerp 30 May 1969
D Clayton 2:09:36.4 1st Fukuoka 3 Dec 1967
Bill Adcocks 2:10:47.8 1st Fukuoka 8 Dec 1968
B Adcocks 2:11:07.2 1st Athens 6 Apr 1969
Jerome Drayton 2:11.12.8 1st Fukuoka 7 Dec 1969
Sei-ichiro Sasaki 2:11:17.0 2nd Fukuoka 3 Dec 1967
Akio Usami 2:11:27.8 2nd Antwerp 30 May 1969
Ron Hill 2:11:54.4 2nd Fukuoka 7 Dec 1969
Morio Shigematsu 2:12:00 1st Chiswick 12 Jun 1965
J Drayton 2:12:00 1st Detroit 19 Oct 1969
Hayami Tanimura 2:12:03.4 3rd Fukuoka 7 Dec 1969
Abebe Bikila 2:12:11.2 1st Tokyo 21 Oct 1964
B Adcocks 2:12:16.8 1st Karl Marx Stadt 19 May 1968
David McKenzie 2:12:25.8 3rd Fukuoka 3 Dec 1967
Yoshiaki Unetani 2:12:40.6 2nd Fukuoka 8 Dec 1968
Pablo Garrido 2:12:52.8 4th Fukuoka 7 Dec 1969
Toshiharu Sasaki 2:13:06.4 5th Fukuoka 7 Dec 1969
Akio Yoshida 2:13:21.0 6th Fukuoka 7 Dec 1969