Pat Bigold

The Way I See It

By Pat Bigold

Tuesday, November 9, 1999

Foreign-born marathoner
might wear USA colors

CAN you imagine a human running 26.2 miles and doing 24 of them under 5 minutes?

That's what Moroccan Kahlid Khannouchi did in setting a new marathon world record of 2 hours, 5 minutes, 42 seconds on Oct. 24 in Chicago.

In fact, he did miles 22 to 24 in 4:43, 4:41 and 4:43.

Boggles the mind when you think how hard it would be for many seasoned athletes to do a single sub-5-minute mile with good rest.

Now consider that the 27-year-old Khannouchi is currently seeking expedited naturalization as a U.S. citizen so he can represent this country in the 2000 Olympic marathon in Sydney.

That's right.

After years and years of embarrassingly poor finishes by American-born athletes in the Olympic marathon, we might wake up some morning soon and find a foreign-born world record holder on our side.

The last marathon gold medal for the U.S. came in 1972 when Frank Shorter stunned the world at Munich and ignited the American running boom.

The running boom has long since quieted and America's long distance competitiveness on the international scene is virtually nil.

DAVID Morris, who set an American record in Chicago the same day Khannouchi ran a world record, has run a 2:09:32.

There have already been 12 world class performances faster than 2:07:00, and 40 under 2:08:00. So you can see how far down the list that U.S. record stands.

If the Moroccan gets to wear the U.S. colors, Morris should be the No. 2 man on our team. He'd look like he didn't even belong.

Khannouchi lives in Ossining, New York, and is married to an American woman.

It would sure be nice to see the red, white and blue beating the devil out of a world class field. But doing it with Khannouchi would seem bizarre.

I've seen the argument that if Khannouchi goes Down Under and wins for the U.S., it will cause the same kind of excitement Shorter caused in 1972.

But I severely doubt that.

Shorter proved that an American-born athlete could take on the world and win the Olympic marathon.

What we really need - and we're not even close to it yet - is another Shorter.


AND while on the subject of marathoning, it looks like the 27th Honolulu Marathon on Dec. 12 will have a hot new contender from South Korea in the men's race.

Kim Yi-yong, who clocked 2:07:49 just last April in Rotterdam, will be in the field trying to dethrone the reigning champion, Mbarak Hussein of Kenya.

Kim can't run in the 2-hour, 7-minute range in high humidity over Honolulu's more challenging terrain. Nobody can.

But I wonder if his presence in the field with Hussein and two-time Honolulu winner (1996, 1997) Erick Kimaiyo of Kenya can possibly create a more exciting race than last year's.

If you recall, Hussein won by barely two steps as he and Kimaiyo kicked the last 200 meters in about 27 seconds and finished in an identical 2:14:53.

Not sure it can get any better than that .

Pat Bigold has covered sports for daily newspapers
in Hawaii and Massachusetts since 1978.

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