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Apr 17, 2001
Best of RC 352
Precious few runners can win without the special dispensation of age-group racing. For a year or two after turning 40, the they can still run with the best of any age.
This happened a few times even before anyone thought to call these runners "masters" or (internationally) "veterans." Jack Holden of England was 43 when he won the European Championships and Empire Games Marathons in 1950. American Clarence DeMar won his final Boston, in 1930, at age 41. Johnny Kelley made the 1948 U.S. Olympic team at 40.
More recently, 41-year-old New Zealander Jack Foster ran to a marathon silver medal at the 1974 Commonwealth Games while setting a long-standing masters record of 2:11:19. Priscilla Welch, 42, of Britain won the overall women's title at New York City in 1987.
For all Priscilla did as a master in open competition, she wasn't the first woman to win this way -- or the most decorated. That honor goes to Miki Gorman, who did her best racing in the 1970s.
This month the Road Runners Club of America elected Miki to its Hall of Fame. Joining her as the latest inductee is Greg Meyer, who has watched 17 Boston Marathons pass since he was the last American man to win there.
Miki is the the first woman selected to this Hall since 1997, and she's overdue for this honor. She is the country's most successful master ever at beating the youngsters. She won twice at the New York City Marathon (1976 and '77) and once at Boston (1977) after turning 40.
She PRed shortly after her 41st birthday with 2:39:11 at New York City. That time stood for 15 years as an American masters record.
Like Priscilla Welch, Miki Gorman was a latecomer to the sport. Both adopted it in their mid-30s after leading interesting but unathletic lives until then.
Priscilla had served in the British Navy. Miki was born in China of Japanese parents, then emigrated to the U.S. as an adult and married an American.
Miki came at marathoning from the wrong direction, or at least the nontraditional one. Instead of starting in short road races and working up, she began with ultras and came down.
After finishing her Los Angeles club's 100-mile run -- on an indoor track -- she began training with coach Laszlo Tabori's group that included future world record-holder Jacqueline Hansen. Miki set that record first, running 2:46:36 in 1973.
The following spring she won Boston at age 38. Then she took time out to have her only child before returning to do more winning as a master.
Now 65, she is single again and lives with her daughter Danielle in Los Angeles. Miki has returned to running after taking more than a decade off.
"My last marathon was in Japan in 1982," she tells Jim Oaks of the RRCA. "I didn't run too much after that until about five years ago when I started back -- this time to lose weight. Even though I ate mostly rice and vegetables, I was still eating a lot of junk food."
Her Hall of Fame selection lets a new generation of runners get to know her. Miki Gorman is now in the company of other women's running pioneers -- Roberta Gibb, Kathrine Switzer, Nina Kuscsik, Jacqueline Hansen -- where she has long belonged.
WHAT FOUR? I have been training for a four-hour time in a May marathon. I have been training 23 to 26 miles per week, with a longest run so far of 13 miles.
I just ran a half-marathon in 2:08. The course was very hilly and icy in spots.
My question: What can I change in my program to build my endurance and speed to get closer to my goal?" (Rob McLean)
A: I wouldn't read too much into that half-marathon time, and certainly wouldn't let it shake your confidence. As you say, the day was icy.
You're early in marathon training, with the race still two months away. You have several long runs to take between now and then, and those are your best preparation for the marathon.
Later you need to decide if 4:00 is a reasonable goal for you. To run it, you probably need to be able to run a "half" in 1:50 or better.