Athens Olympics 2004 - Men's Marathon Report
Men's Olympic Marathon Starting List
Post-Race Interviews and Quotes
Father Neil Horan, the loony who knocked out de Lima
101 runners started and 81 runners finished the Olympics Marathon on a hot and difficult run from Marathon to Athens.
As expected, the beginning stages of the marathon were conservative and not until mile 11 did any runner try to break from the very large pack. It was Hendrick Ramaala who made the first move at mile 11 and quickly built a lead of twenty seconds, but just as clickly as the lead developed, it disappeared as the pack caught Ramaala. The first to reach Ramaala, it was Vanderlei de Lima of Brazil who decided to make a break - beginning at 20K while the rest of the pack of 60 runners just watched. By mile 17, de Lima had built a 40 second lead over the pack of 9 who were following. It was Meb Keflezighi of the USA who made the decision to chase and as the pack increased its tempo, it fell to only three men chasing de Lima: Stefano Baldini of Italy, Paul Tergat of Kenya and Meb Keflezhigi - the race would be between those four.
To find out what happened next, read about the race as it happened, or skip ahead to Mile 21 or the finish.
As It Happened
The race has not yet started, and the story will be similar to the story of a week ago when the women ran this course. A hot, humid day and a difficult course. The course is the same, beginning in Marathon at 131 ft. above sea level, declining for the first 10 kilometers to 33 ft. before beginning a gradual and then steeper climb to a peak of 753ft. at the 32K mark before descending the last 10K to the finish at about 301ft. This is a tough course.
The men's race will be different than the women's in two ways. First, the day is, fortunately, a bit cooler. At the start, the temperature is expected to be 80 degrees fahrenheit (26 celsius), and 40% humidity - better than the 86 degrees and 50% humidity of a week earlier, but still hot!
Second, the women's race focused on 4 to 8 women who could legitimately medal. The men's field of 102 features up to 20 runners who could stand on the podium and at least a dozen who could be in contention for the gold. Paul Tergat holds the world record in the marathon - 2:04:55, but that, of course, was on a flat course. The heat and the course will be the great equalizer in this race.
The race began on time at 6:00PM - with 101 men taking the starting line (only one DNS, Luc Krotwaar). The men have fared a bit better than the women a week earlier, as temperatures at the start were 80 degrees fahrenheit (26 celsius), and 40% humidity - better than the 86 degrees and 50% humidity of a week earlier, but still hot!
The race opens and Khalid El Boumlili of Morrocco runs away from the pack from the beginning. His lead builds to nearly 10 seconds through the first mile in 5:04. The rest of the pack is ignoring El Boumlili. With a personal best of 2:10:49, El Boumlili will not be a factor and no one worries about his building a big lead. The rest of the pack contains everyone! - a large pack and not fast yet - they respect this course.
Through two miles in 10:18. El Boumlili is in the front but he has moved back to the pack.
Mile 3 - 15:24 (5K in 15:57). The pack still contains all of the runners (actually, just 84 runners, but that's pretty much everyone!) as they enjoy the easy pace. Ser-Od Ba-Ochir (PB 2:26:39) of Mongolia leads the pack through the 5K mark - clearly this is not a pace to worry anyone.
Mile 4 - 20:36....
Mile 5 - 25:42... With the slow pace, someone had to step to the front, so Viktor Rothlin of Switzerland leads the group with Ba-Ochir just behind him (followed by the rest...)
10K in 31:54. Vanderlei de Lima (Brazil), Jose Rios (Spain) and Gang Han (China) are in the front with the rest behind. The pack is still huge - 60 runners within 9 seconds of the lead. Near the front - should we watch these men? - Jose Rios, Hendrick Ramaala, Julio Rey, Ambesse Tolosa, Ian Syster. For the Americans reading this...Meb Keflezighi is in 30th at 31:58 for the 10K (four seconds back), Alan Culpepper is in 32nd spot at 31:58 and Dan Browne in 55th at 32:02 for 10K.
8 miles in 41:20... 9 miles in 46:37... 15K in 48:15. At this point there is no one leading the pack - the pack is 10 men wide. The pack is shedding a few runners, but no one of note (the pack is down to about 55 runners). Still a relatively slow pace. It was at this point that Noguchi began her surge in the women's race, but no one is doing anything in this men's race. We're starting to think this is less like the women's Athens marathon than the 1992 Barcelona Marathon where, on a hot day, 60 runners remained in the lead pack at the halfway point.
10 miles in 51:48... 11 miles in in 56:19. In the last mile, Hendrick Ramaala of South Africa has opened up a lead of nearly 20 seconds on the pack, Ramaala is someone the pack will watch.
20K in 1:03:54. The pack has caught Ramaala on the uphill and Vanderlai de Lima of Brazil has taken the lead.
13 miles in 1:06:46. Half-Marathon in 1:07:23. de Lima is now 15 seconds ahead of the pack. The rest of the pack is beginning to string out in the back but still contains 30 runners. Meb Keflezighi still remains in that group. Culpepper is a few seconds behind the pack and Dan Browne is now fifteen seconds behind the pack.
15 miles in 1:16:45, the last mile in 4:56.
25K in 1:19:33. de Lima continues to increase his lead and is now 35 seconds ahead of the main pack which is down to 18 runners.
16 miles in 1:21:45, de Lima is 30 seconds ahead of the main pack.
17 miles in 1:26:56. de Lima is now nearly 40 seconds ahead of the main pack which is down to 9 runners, including Keflezighi.
30K in 1:35:03. de Lima is now 46 seconds ahead of the lead pack, which contains the following 8 runners (with bib numbers, for those watching): Jon Brown (1791) of Great Britain, Ambesse Tolosa (1679) of Ethiopia, Jaouad Gharib (2474) of Morrocco, Meb Keflezighi (3295) of the USA, Stefano Baldini (2157) of Italy, Erick Wainaina (2361), Paul Tergat (2359) of Kenya and Shgeru Aburaya (2263) of Japan.
19 miles in 1:36:54. Meb Keflezighi and Jon Brown have been the ones encouraging the pack to move forward, but de Lima maintains his lead.
Into mile 20 (1:41:44). Baldini, Tergat and Keflezighi have made the move away from the rest of the pack. They are chasing de Lima who is just getting to the downhill portion of the course. At this point, we need to favor Tergat who has the greatest speed in the bunch. Having made it up the hills in this position and looking strong, let's see what he can do.
35K in 1:50:09. de Lima's lead is dropping, he is now only 38 seconds ahead of the men who are following. Baldini leads the chase group with Tergat and Keflezighi just behind. The next runners, Brown, Wainaina and Gharib are 22 seconds behind this chase group, they've fallen to far back to figure in the final standings. Now the race is down to four runners - with de Lima seeing if he can hold on for the final 10K... We don't think that can happen with Tergat in the chase group, but we'll see and we'll see if he can keep a medal - what guts and now the race becomes exciting.
As a side note, as of this point in the race, 18 runners have dropped out at various points on the course (of most note, Ian Syster and John Nada Saya)...
Unbelievable!!! Just after 21 miles, a fan runs across the road and grabs de Lima, pulling him off the course - this is incredible. The spectator pulled de Lima completely off the road before other fans were able to free de Lima from his grasp. This has lost de Lima almost ten seconds, but psychologically, it must be devastating - and perhaps he is somewhat injured.
As for our earlier comments about the chase pack - we need to eat our words. It is not Tergat who is chasing down the leader, it is Keflezighi with Baldini holding on and Tergat falling back.
23 miles in 1:56:15. Keflezighi and Baldini are perhaps twenty seconds back. Is Keflezighi beginning to think of and become motivated by the $500,000 bonus offered by the NYC and Chicago Marathons for an American gold medal in the marathon???
24 miles in 2:00:59. In the last mile, Baldini has picked up the pace and run away from Keflezighi and then is able to pass de Lima to move into the lead. Keflezighi is just passing de Lima as well. Keflezighi, who was originally scheduled to compete in the 10,000m but instead chose to save his strength for the marathon must certainly be glad for that choice. At this point he looks set for a silver medal. With Baldini pulling away, he seems guaranteed the gold and Keflezighi must now be running for silver.
40K in 2:04:49. Baldini has opened his lead to ten seconds over Keflizighi who is now 18 seconds ahead of de Lima who is 39 seconds ahead of Jon Brown who has moved into fourth position. Tergat has faded terribly. It looks to us like this will be the race - with less than 2K to go: Baldini, Keflezighi, de Lima.
25 miles in 2:05:27. Baldini is extending his lead and looks strong. Keflezighi is about ten seconds behind and beginning to fall back a bit more. He is running for silver. de Lima is a dozen seconds behind Keflezighi, but looking like he is running strong - his bronze should be assured. Jon Brown is visible in fourth place, but too far back to make it for a medal.
The Finish. Baldini continued to build his lead and won gold in 2:10:55. Keflezighi, in a great week for American marathoning, takes the silver medal in 2:11:29. Vanderle de Lima holds on for bronze in 2:12:11, joking with the crowd as he enters the stadium, his arms to his sides pretending to fly, blowing kisses to the crowd and then in the air in victory... but the lingering question will remain - what would have happened had that crazed spectator not thrown him off the course. Our hearts go out to de Lima who was the gutsiest runner in the field and led through the 10K mark and from 20K through nearly 40K - he deserved a fair chance, although on the track he looked quite happy with his bronze (the first marathon medal ever for a Brazilian) and smiling as he did his own victory lap! Jon Brown, who was fourth in the 2000 Olympics Marathon, finished fourth again in 2:12:26.
Post-race: In addition to his bronze medal, The Olympic Committee also decided to award de Lima a special medal named after Pierre de Coubertin for his "exceptional demonstration of fair play and Olympic values." The Brazilian Olympic Committee is protesting the race.
The rest of the top ten:
5. Shigeru Aburaya - 2:13:11
6. Toshinari Suwa - 2:13:24
7. Erick Wainana - 2:13:30
8. Alberto Chaica - 2:14:17
9. Alberico di Cecco - 2:14:34
10. Paul Tergat - 2:14:45
12. Alan Culpepper - 2:15:26
64. Dan Browne - 2:27:31