2002 – Khalid Khannouchi

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14-Apr-2002 – London Marathon – 2:05:38 – New Balance RC110
Date of birth: 12-Sep-1971
Nationality: American
World Record Duration: 1 year, 5 months, 14 days

The athlete:                
Khalid Khannouchi had already established himself as the fastest marathon runner in America and the world with his performance at the 1999 Chicago Marathon. Khannouchi had hoped that the 2002 London Marathon would mark his return to form, as he’d lost motivation when injuries suffered at the 2000 event prevented him from running at the 2000 Olympics. The event was billed as the battle between Khannouchi, debutant Haile Gebrselassie and Paul Tergat. Organisers had apparently spent US$3 million in order to assemble the strongest field possible. The women’s race featured one Paula Radcliffe, who would be making her much anticipated marathon debut.

Gebrselassie and Tergat had both established their legendary credentials in middle distances, the former making his much anticipated marathon debut, the latter having already several races under his belt. Both were sources of inspiration for Khannouchi in the early stages of his career. As for the early stages of the race, it was extremely quick, all three men with several other top runners blasting through the first half in 62:47, well beneath world record pace.

By 17 miles, Gebrselassie still kept pouring on speed, and by 21 miles it was only Khannouchi and Tergat who could keep up with him. Between the three of them they held the world record in the 10,000 metres, half marathon, and marathon distance. The 25th mile would prove decisive, with Gebrselassie dropping away from the lead duo, later complaining of calf cramps. One mile later, Khannouchi kicked up the pace, leaving Tergat behind him.

Sprinting to the finish, he would break his old world record by the slim margin of four seconds, still enough for a $255,000 prize for winning as well as setting the new world record. While his performance was not an enormous improvement over his 1999 result, it still stands as the fastest marathon ever run by an American.

Unfortunately foot injuries would plague his later years. 2003 came and went without any competitive running, and Khannouchi missed the 2004 Olympic Trials as his recovery continued. His last hurrah was in 2007, when he finished 4th in the New York City Marathon and was only one spot from finally making the Olympics and representing the United States of America. His achievements still stood proudly, and his record is still the fastest official marathon for an American.

The shoes:                   

Khannouchi was another believer in the mantra of ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’. He wore the exact same colourway of the New Balance RC110 racing flat he had on his feet when he first set the world record in 1999. Apart from the battle waged between him, Gebrselassie, and Tergat, there was also the matter of their footwear.

Gebrselassie wore Adidas to make his debut, staying loyal to the brand he had worn during his middle distance career. The specific model was the Concerto 2, very noticeable with its striking colourway and offset lacing. Tergat was sponsored by Fila, and was wearing the carbon-fibre plated Racer K1.

It was the then-latest model Fila released as part of the first ever racing shoes made with such technology, many years before Nike would develop its own highly successful take on the concept. If you want to learn more, I have since written more about the history of Fila and their carbon-fibre plated racing shoes in an article published by Marathon Handbook.

As for Khannouchi and New Balance, they rereleased the model in 2004 as the RC205WR, in honour of his marathon achievement. It was recently released in many colourways, except that worn by Khannouchi during his marathon successes.