Remaining 7-1/2 years of his serious athletic career, he would never again run as fast.
Similarly, despite his peaking approach to marathon racing, Frank Shorter ran his best-ever marathon in only his sixth attempt at the distance and did not improve further his last eight serious marathons. Rob de Castella set the world marathon record at his sixth attempt at the distance in 1981 and failed to improve further during the next 4 years despite heavy training and high expectations, especially for the 1984 Olympic Games Marathon (de Castella & Jenkinson, 1984). A similar fate has struck Steve Jones (whose average time for the first three marathons of his career was sub-2:08) and Carlos Lopes, both of whom have run poorly in recent years and shown relatively large decreases in performances.
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It seems that each runner can run only a limited number of very fast marathons and that the runner’s career will be foreshortened if those races are run in rapid succession, as in the cases of Hill, Lopes, and Jones. Sub-2:09 marathoner Mark Plaatjies, a former South African who now lives in the United States, has suggested that elite marathoners should race a maximum of one or two marathons a year for 2 years before taking a complete break from marathoning for a full 2 years. He notes that the cofavorites for the 1984 Olympic Marathon, de Castella
From “Olympic Marathon: Experience Not Required” by H. Beinart, 1986, Track and Field News (May), p. 45. Copyright 1986 by Track and Field News. Adapted by permission.
And Japan’s Toshihiko Seiko, took 2 years to recover from their disappointing performances in that race (Plaatjies, 1986).
Another finding that adds credence to this general belief is that with only one exception, the winners of the Olympic Games Marathon up to 1984 have been relatively inexperienced marathoners (Beinart, 1986; see Exercises 8.32). If you were going to pick future winners of the Olympic Marathon, it seems that you should back the very fast 10,000-m runners who have run either no marathons or only one previous marathon.
The marathon is less a physical event than a spiritual encounter.
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