Jaouad Gharib of Morocco wins the marathon at the 2003 IAAF World Championships (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News Paris, France

Putting the King on hold

Jaouad Gharib delayed a phone conversation with the King of Morocco to tell the world’s press about his love of the marathon.

The newly-crowned World champion was awaiting a phone call from the King when he was required to attend a press conference, but he was due to receive his royal congratulations soon after he revealed how happy he is with his transition to his new distance.

He may have run 26.2 miles only twice, but he is convinced he is now a marathon runner. The 31-year-old says he will still race on the track and cross country, but when he does so his mind will be on the marathon.

Gharib has now competed in three World Championships this year – indoors in Birmingham, on the country in Lausanne and now on the roads in Paris. The marathon produced by far the best performance of that trio as he says: “When I ran in the cross country in Lausanne it was because the Moroccan technical director put me in the team to strengthen it. My races on the track are just to improve my speed for the marathon.

“Anyone who saw me run my debut in Rotterdam would see I am a marathon runner and I think I have proved that in Paris."

Gharib is coached by Brahim Boutayeb, the 1988 Olympic 10,000m champion, and has already proved himself on the world stage with silver in the World Half Marathon championships last year. But with a lack of experience over 26.2 miles, he was not among the favourites for the World title.

The Kenyans and Ethiopians were expected to challenge, but they failed to produce any of the first seven finishers. Gharib said: “This was not a commercial marathon. The Kenyans and Ethiopians run very well in such races, but when you come to a world championship everyone has the same opportunity. I didn’t single out the Kenyans or Ethiopians as my main dangers because everyone has the same dream of winning the gold medal.

“I had great support out on the course and I decided to make my move after 34km. I saw there were several top runners who tried to come with me but I kept trying to dictate the strategy of the race. I did not want any other runners to be able to impose their strategy on the race.

“I knew I was in good shape. My debut in Rotterdam, where I finished sixth in 2:09:15, and my half-marathon win in Johannesburg gave me confidence and I knew I was ready for the World Championships. I am not surprised by my win because I have been training very hard, and I felt well prepared. Maybe the Kenyans and Ethiopians were not as well prepared as me. I trained on tougher routes than I ran in the marathon, so while some runners found the hills tough it was not a problem for me."