U.S. Runners & Marathon Challenges

We look at a controversial push to change form with American long-distance runners — to get them back in the winner’s circle.

The elite women runners make the turn the corner of 59th Street during the New York City Marathon, Nov. 7, 2010. (AP)

A generation ago, American long-distance runners won the world’s big marathons year after year. Bill Rodgers, Alberto Salazar, Joan Benoit and more were indomitable champs. Boston Marathon, New York Marathon, you name it. 

Then, something changed. Americans fell off the map. The world rushed in: Kenyans, Ethiopians. Tremendous runners, in the winners circle — and not Americans. 

Now, Salazar and others are trying to change that, and change form.  

We speak with Bill Rodgers and more on what happened to America’s long distance runners, and how to bring them back. 

-Tom Ashbrook


Jennifer Kahn, feature writer and lecturer at the University of California – Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Her new article for The New Yorker is “The Perfect Stride: Can Alberto Salazar straighten out American distance running?” Check out this video where she compares the stride of American marathoner Dathan Ritzenhein to Ethiopian distance runner Kenenisa Bekele.

Scott Douglas, senior editor at Running Times and co-author, with Olympian Pete Pfitzinger, of “Advanced Marathoning.”

Jeremy Rasmussen, women’s cross-country coach and assistant track-and-field coach at the University of Illinois.  In 2009, he coached the Illini to a top-12 finish at the NCAA Cross Country Championships for their third consecutive year. 

Bill Rodgers, U.S. long-distance legend who won numerous Boston and New York City marathons in the late 1970s.

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