SPANISH MARATHON (1/2): FROM THE LATE 80s TO THE GOLDEN AGE

Diego García (left, silver), Martín Fiz (middle, gold) and Alberto Juzdado (right, bronze) at the European Athletics Championships of Helsinki 1994

The prelude

Continuing our previous post where we reviewed all the national marathoners with marks below 2 hours and 10 minutes, we have decided to see how they did at international level.

Although Diego García is often considered the initiator of the golden age in the Spanish marathon, there were other prominent marathoners before him. Santiago de la Parte (Palencia 1948) held the national marathon record for 6 years (2.11.10, Tokyo 1984), until it was snatched away by Juan Francisco Romera (Toledo 1960) in the 1990 London marathon. He run the distance in 2.10.48 and he finished in third position.

However, Diego García (Guipúzcoa 1961-2001) was the first marathoner to become known to the general public. In 1992 he participated in the Barcelona Olympic Games, where he finished in ninth position, and ended the year beating the Spanish record in the Fukuoka marathon (2.10.30).

In 1993 Martín Fiz (Álava 1963) made the transition from the track to the marathon, winning the Helsinki marathon on his debut (2.12.47). This promising start was just the prelude to a successful career. To end the year Rodrigo Gavela (León 1966) lowered the national record to 2.10.27 in San Sebastián.

 

The Golden Age (1994-2000)

In 1994 at the Boston Marathon Martín Fiz lowered the national record to 2.10.21. But the real boom of the Spanish marathon was in the European Championships in Helsinki that same summer, where Martín Fiz, Diego García and Alberto Juzdado (Madrid 1996) took the first 3 positions in this order. And the year finished with another national record. Alberto Serrano managed to lower it by more than a minute, and for the first time below 2h10m, by stopping the clock at 2.09.13 in Berlin, where he finished in third position.

The year 1995 had a clear protagonist: Martín Fiz. Firstly, he managed to lower the national record again to 2.08.57 in Rotterdam. But only a few months later he won for the first time for Spain a Marathon World Championship in Gothenburg 1995. Spain confirmed its rise to the international level, after having shown its power a year earlier at the European level. Of the 15 marathons of the season below 2.10, three had been achieved by Spanish athletes.

1996 was an Olympic year, and the Spanish “Armada” grew, while improving its times. First Alberto Juzdado lowered the national record to 2.08.46 in Tokyo, until Martín Fiz regained it with his 2.08.25 in Gyeongju (South Korea) one month later. In less than 4 years the national record had been lowered 6 times. However, in the Olympic Games the three Spanish representatives (Fiz, García and Juzdado) who had taken the top 3 places on the podium at the Helsinki Europeans two years earlier could not get on the podium. Fiz was the best positioned, finishing 4th with 2.13.20, and achieving the best position of a Spanish athlete in the distance in an Olympic event. And in 1996 another outstanding Spanish athlete made his debut in the distance. Abel Antón (Soria 1962) won the prestigious Berlin marathon with 2.09.15. Furthermore, for the first and only time Spain closed the year with the best marathon time of the season, thanks to the 2.08.25 from Fiz´s national record.

In 1997 there was a world-class leap in the marathon, going from 18 marks down from 2.10 the year before to 45. Many quality athletes had moved to the marathon distance and times were improving. However, Spain was still one step above its rivals, and again took the World Championship in Athens. Now it was Antón who occupied the first place, with Fiz finishing second. In just 3 years he had managed to be European champion and champion and runner-up at the World Championships, in addition to breaking the national record on several occasions. All this in a year in which Alejandro Gómez (Pontevedra 1968) lowered the national record to 2.07.54 in Rotterdam.

In 1998, a year of transition without World Championships or Olympic Games, Spain managed to drop from 2.10 seven times, something that has not been achieved again. Times that until recently were impossible to achieve, were now available to a wide range of athletes. Fabián Roncero (Madrid 1970) entered the national scene and took the national record to 2.07.26 in Rotterdam. Meanwhile Antón won in London with a time of 2.07.57.

1999 was the year of the World Championships again, this time in Seville, and the Spanish did not disappoint at home. Antón managed to revalidate his title (2.13.36), something that until then no other athlete had achieved. And four times were run marathons faster than 2.10.

Entering the new century, it was once again time for Olympics Games, an appointment that would mean the farewell at international level of some of the greatest figures of the golden age of the Spanish marathon. Sidney 2000 would be their last shot at Olympic glory. The Spanish team was made up of Antón, Fiz and Juzdado. The best position was once again for Fiz, who got a creditable sixth place (2.13.06).

With the withdrawal of all of them after Sidney, a golden page was closing in Spanish sports.

To be continued in the next post…

Martín Fiz, winner at the marathon of the World Athletics Championships of Gothenburg 1995

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