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Flashback To The 1999 Chicago Marathon

  • By David Monti
  • Published Mar. 30, 2012
  • Updated Mar. 30, 2012 at 7:41 AM UTC
Khalid Khannouchi first set the marathon world record in Chicago 13 years ago. Photo: Reuters

That year, Khalid Khannouchi set the world record.

(c) 2012 Race Results Weekly. Used with permission.

Khalid Khannouchi first set the marathon world record at the LaSalle Banks Chicago Marathon in 1999. Race Results Weekly’s David Monti was there to cover the race, and we’re reprinting his story for you today as a way to honor Khannouchi after he announced his retirement this week.

CHICAGO, Ill. (24-Oct-1999) — Ronaldo da Costa’s marathon world record came crashing down here today, as Khalid Khannouchi became the fastest man of all-time over the 42.195 km distance. In an electrifying come from behind effort, the U.S.-based Moroccan won the LaSalle Banks Chicago Marathon for the second time in three years in 2:05:42, 23 seconds faster than da Costa’s previous world best time set in Berlin just over one year ago.

“I’m not the best, but I’m one of the best,” said Khannouchi speaking to reporters after the race. Although thrilled to hold the world record, he readily acknowledged how flleeting his positin can be. “I’m happy to hold it, even for one hour.”

Da Costa failed to finish the race, dropping out at 15 miles with lower back pain which was worsened by the 33 degree temperatures.

Khannouchi got the victory and the world record, but it was Moses Tanui of Kenya who made the race. The 34 year-old two-time Boston Marathon champion, held back as the designated rabbits took the pack through the half-way mark in a blistering 1:03:00. He did not join the lead pack of defending champion Ondoro Osoro, Jimmy Muindi, James Kariuki, Joseph Kahugu, and Eder Moreno Fialho until about 16 miles. After catching the pack, Tanui shot ahead and quickly built up a 33 second lead.

The lead pack fell apart, and it was every man for himself. Khannouchi took up the chase alone, and slowly started to eat into Tanui’s lead.  It was not until the 25th mile that  Khannouchi caught his rival, and passed him with authority.  The Kenyan later admitted he had made his move too early.

“It was my mistake what I did today,” said Tanui who doesn’t wear a watch when he races. He became confused by the presence of both mile and kilometer marks on the course, and thought he had made his move at 35-K when he was actually at 30-K.

Nonetheless, Tanui’s second place time of 2:06:16 was the third fastest in history, a Kenyan national record, and the second best time ever run on U.S. soil. He praised Khannouchi’s performance. “He’s a world-class athlete, and I respect him,” said Tanui.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day was the fourth place finish of little-known American, David Morris of Albuquerque, N.M. who surpassed the U.S. record for a standard course by three seconds, running 2:09:32 for fourth place. [A standard course is not significantly aided by elevation loss or wind. Bob Kempainen ran the fastest U.S. marathon of all-time in Boston in 1994 (2:08:47) but the national federation considers the Boston course to be aided.]

Morris earned $53,500, taking advantage of the doubling of prize money for Americans who finished in the top-10.  The leading U.S. entrant, Todd Williams of Knoxville, Tenn.finished a disappointing 20th in 2:14:58. “I’ve got to to back to the drawing board,” Williams lamented after the race. He’s not certain if he will tackle the marathon again.  ”At mile 22 I totally fell apart,” he added.

The women’s race did not develop as many had envisioned. The leading challenger to defending champion Joyce Chepchumba, Catherina McKiernan of Ireland, experienced stomach discomfort and finished 12th some ten minutes off of the pace. Instead, Chepchumba was taken right to the line by marathon debutante, Margaret Okayo of Kenya. The two were side by side heading for the line, with Chepchumba earning the victory by half a step in 2:25:59.  She immediately bent forward and threw-up. Okayo was timed one second behind.

Chepchumba had to overcome a fall during the 11th mile, when she was tripped from behind. She lost about 100m and had to battle some body pain. “In my mind I was saying, ‘I feel pain,’ and then, ‘No, no pain,’ and I kept running.”

Elana Meyer of South Africa, still searching for that elusive marathon victory, finished third in 2:27:17.

Libbie Hickman and Kristy Johnston became the first American women to achieve the 2000 Olympics “A” standard. Hickman finished sixth in a personal best time of 2:28:35, while Johnston –who won this race in 1994– was tenth in 2:32:35.

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