N.Y. Marathon is home away from home and then some for winners

Phil Jackman

November 05, 1990|By Phil Jackman

NEW YORK -- In a race that doesn't figure to elicit memories much past tomorrow, Wednesday at the latest, two pretty unique people made off with the New York City Marathon yesterday.

Douglas Wakiihuri, a Kenyan who has adopted Japan as a second home, spoke for about an hour after his easy victory in 2:12:39 and not once did he mention pace, mile splits or world records. It was refreshing.

The Olympic silver medalist, who is on a three-race win streak that includes the London and Commonwealth Games marathons, has a simple explanation: "The idea is to win the race."

Meanwhile, over on the women's side, Wanda Panfil, a Pole who has adopted Mexico as a second home (via marriage), disclosed her unique race regimen following her 2:30:45 effort.

Amazingly, Panfil doesn't drink water during her 26-mile, 385-yard romps. At least she never had during a dozen previous marathons. Because of the heat (72 degrees) and humidity (55 percent), she relented and took a sip at the 16-mile mark.

Never again. "Got pain in my stomach," she said through her interpreter-husband, Mauricio Gonzalez, a world class middle-distance runner in his own right.

Past runs through the five boroughs of the Big Apple have featured record-shattering performances, tight duels to the finish splendid individual efforts. The 21st had none of these.

Wakiihuri was on the lead or within an arm's length of it after about the first 5 miles. Shortly after the halfway mark, there were only four men in contention and the million or so watching wondered if everyone else stopped off for a pizza.

At 20 miles, the Kenyan said he wasn't running that well, but he was "relaxed, so I threw a little surge in there. I saw they couldn't go with me, so I decided to leave," he said, referring to Salvador Garcia, Steve Brace and defending champion Juma Ikangaa, who ended up 2-3-4.

"I didn't get away quickly; they were tired," Wakiihuri said. "If they couldn't go with me at 20 miles, I don't expect them to come on later."

In effect, the final 10-K was literally a stroll in the (Central) Park, as Wakiihuri eased in with a 32:31 for the distance.

The victor was asked repeatedly about his rivalry with Ikangaa, of Tanzania. But he doesn't see marathoning that way: "You don't challenge the athlete; you challenge the race and the conditions. So many things can change, so you just do your best."

Something told Panfil it was time to part company with her competition just about the time the men's and women's fields combined, shortly after 8 miles in Brooklyn. "I feel very strong," she said. "Why wait?"

Just after 10 miles, she had 100 yards on the field and she breezed until the very end when Kim Jones rallied over the last 2 miles.

"I was only five seconds back, but that's not as close as it sounds," said Jones, a bridesmaid once again.

"The race took shape the opposite of what I expected," Jones continued. "I'm a come-from-behind runner and everyone went out slow and sluggish."

Jones was forced to the front, which she didn't like, and was happy when Panfil came up on her at 9 miles: "I couldn't go with her 5:30 [mile] pace because I tried and got a little twinge [in an injured right quadriceps].

"I went as fast as I could protecting the leg and, with about a half-mile to go, I thought I had a chance at her. But she's strong; she didn't give much."

And, remember, she didn't have to slow down for water. Panfil had her stores replenished in another way. "First, when I go through a Polish community in Brooklyn. Later, at 16 miles, there was a boost in a Mexican community."

Considering the energy-sapping weather, just about all the front-runners were happy with their efforts. Not so runner-up Garcia.

The sergeant in the Mexican army was ready to kick the barn doors down. But he couldn't. While others complained of the heat and humidity, he said: "I never care about the weather. But in the middle of the race I got blisters. Definitely I would have

gone with Wakiihuri at 20 miles if my feet had been OK."

Even limping and with both feet bleeding, Garcia was within a minute of the leader while holding off Brace (by 13 seconds) and whipping Ikangaa by more than a minute.

You're wondering about the first American male? He was Mohamed Idris, a citizen from Brooklyn who finished 22nd in 2:22:23. The defending second-place finisher, Ken Martin, did well for about 10 miles, then began to falter.

"I have no idea what's wrong with me, but I've had it for two months," Martin said of his illness. "I've gone to four doctors and been on all sorts of pills and so on. Still, no idea. I ran to 18 miles, walked a mile then took the Rosie Ruiz route and hailed a cab."

Two other Americans, Bill Rodgers and Jeff Wells, didn't even make it to the starting line. Both felt lousy upon awakening.

Grete Waitz, 37, was seeking her 10th victory in Gotham. She finished fourth in 2:34:35 and was far from disappointed. "It was special for me to finish this race, not having run a marathon in two years. This shows I can be competitive again."

Fifth on the men's side was John Campbell, who, at 41, just keeps getting better. He ran an NYC masters record 2:14:34, well off his best, but called finishing fifth in a field of 25,000 "my greatest achievement."

Top finishers in yesterday's New York Marathon


Douglas Wakiihuri, Kenya, 2 hours, 12 minutes, 39 seconds.

2. Salvador Garcia, Mexico, 2:13:19.

3. Steve Brace, Britain, 2:13:32.

4. Juma Ikangaa, Tanzania, 2:14:32.

5. John Campbell, New Zealand, 2:14:34.

6. Peter Maher, Canada, 2:15:05.

7. Filemon Lopez, Mexico, 2:16:33.

8. Yakov Tolstikov, Soviet Union, 2:16:38.

9. Herbert Steffny, Germany, 2:16:47.

10. Pedro Ortiz, Colombia, 2:16:57.

11. Rafael Zepeda, Mexico, 2:17:01.

12. Jouni Kortelainen, Finland, 2:18:38.

13. Juan Crespo, Spain, 2:18:43.

14. Abderrahim Ech-Cheraqaoui, Italy, 2:18:55.

15. Marti ten Kate, Netherlands, 2:19:16.

16. Jesus Herrera, Mexico, 2:19:41.

17. Tommy Ekblom, Finland, 2:20:29.

18. Volmir Herbstrith, Brazil, 2:20:33.

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