Given that it will be a while before we can return to compete in a “normal” way, we have decided from these pages to revisit some past races.

In this case, and to celebrate the 20th anniversary of our debut at the mythical distance of the marathon, we go back to a distant year 2000. The chosen event was the Madrid Popular Marathon, familiarly called MAPOMA, which was held on April 30.

Back then, and at 24 years old, we had been running for a few years and completed some races. Specifically, 50 races, of which eight had been half marathons, where we credited 1.35.45. The only experience with a greater distance had been an attempt, in vain, to finish the “100km in 24 hours” of 1999, another classic event in Madrid, and which will deserve a future post.

Thanks to being extremely methodical, or geek by then, we carried meticulous training notebooks. And currently they do not differ too much from what we used those days. Without being very detailed, however, they have proved extremely useful over the years.

We had started the year 2000 with persistent fever, which didn´t allow us running for 12 days. Besides this confinement, probably it had been the longest time without training until now. And obviously we started running again by slowly increasing the distances.

Reading again the old training schedules, today I am surprised at how little we trained before D-day. In March, no week did we run more than 4 days, putting in a 27k long training session on Saturday. And even one week was lighter, running only three days (and with a maximum distance of 10k!). In April, with the marathon to finish the month, we interspersed weeks of 3-4 workouts, making only a “long” run of 22k.

In summary, the maximum weekly mileage had been 57k, having done 156k in February, 206 in March and reaching D-day with just 150k in April. There will be those who say that they are very low levels of training to reach the marathon with any option, but this is how we stood in Madrid on Saturday.

MAPOMA was already well established in the national marathon calendar. It was celebrating its 23rd edition, at a time when the number of races in Spain was much smaller. We had not reached the boom we were in until recently, and the marathon was a distance that was viewed with respect, almost venerable.

In 2020, 25 “official” marathons had been planned in Spain. In 2000, together with Madrid, only a handful were held in national soil: Badajoz, Valencia, Seville, Barcelona, ​​Aguilar de Campoo and Los Pacos-Fuengirola.

The running expo was held in a central hotel. Nothing very big as they are in the big marathons nowadays. Nevertheless, the package was well supplied. Spending the night of the race in a hotel next to Gran Vía was not the best idea. The noise until dawn, and the nerves before facing the 42 kilometres, hardly allowed two hours of rest.

At that time the gels were still non-existent, or only for professionals, and there we were in the starting area with a few nuts in the pocket and ready for anything. With about 8000 runners registered, it was the most popular marathon in Spain, despite its hard course.

The good thing about running a distance for the first time is the lack of pressure to improve your personal best. Starting promptly at 9.30, it still took 3 minutes to get under the starting arch. The idea was to attach to an easy pace and manage to finish in the best possible shape.

We had never been in a race with so many people, and public. Things were certainly being easy. Crossing the half marathon in 2.10.43 the affordable pace allowed to confidently face the second half of the test. Although inexperienced, we had read many articles in Corricolari, one of the most popular magazines back then, regarding the dreaded “wall” and what could be expected from the kilometre 32 onwards. There were not many magazines or information available on an early internet.

As the kilometres passed, and especially in the difficult area of ​​Casa de Campo, which is still one of the hardest nowadays, energy began to run low. However, the goal was getting closer and closer. There were still the stimulating casseroles on the banks of the Manzanares and the mythical music from the movie “Chariots of Fire” when arriving at Puerta del Sol.

Entering the long Paseo de la Castellana, is only a matter of time to face the Fuente de Neptuno and the finish line. With the goal in sight and asking for a last effort to the exhausted legs we finish in 4.25.09 (net time 4.22.23) and position 5271 out of 6552 finalists.

Between ecstatic for the achievement and exhausted by the effort, we barely made it to pick up the finalist “plaque”. For some reason in those years these plates replaced the popular medals.

It still took a little time to assimilate what had been done: the mythical distance of the marathon had fallen, and what once seemed unattainable was already a reality.

We still didn’t know that this was the beginning of a long friendship with Philippides distance. We would return to Madrid on another four occasions, and there we were going to celebrate our 20th marathon anniversary by running again its streets. Although now renamed the Madrid Rock n´Roll Marathon, for some it will continue to be MAPOMA.

Delayed to November, let’s hope it can take place and we can close this cycle in the same place where everything started, a distant April 30 of 2000.


The marathon is a physically demanding activity that induces muscle and cardiac damage. The exercise-induced muscle damage, or EIMD, releases components from the damaged muscles on the bloodstream, especially creatine kinase (CK) and myoglobin (MYO). The levels of these components can be used to determine the extent of EIMD. Similar analysis can be done for cardiac damage markers (NT-proBNP, TNI and TNT).

Training levels, genetics, age, exercise intensity and hydration can affect muscle damage. Additionally, it is well known the importance of nutrition on physical fitness and performance.

Could diet be used to reduce EIMD? A recent article has studied the effects of the last week diet on the EIMD induced by running a marathon. Lower levels of damage would imply delayed fatigue, faster recovery times, and consequently a better performance.


The study

Sixty-nine healthy male marathon runners, with more than 5 years of marathon experience and already registered for the Rock n´Roll Madrid Marathon participated in the study.

They were subjected to a medical screening before the study and recorded their food and drink intake during the last week before the race. They were told to avoid intense exercise and pain-relieve methodologies for the last three days. Within minutes of finishing the marathon a small blood sample was collected for analysis of damage markers. They also filled a questionnaire to rate the pain intensity on their legs.


The results


  • Marathon runners ingested an average of 3000 kilocalories per day (carbohydrates 45.0 ± 4.9%, proteins 17.4 ± 2.6%, fat 3.3 ± 3.9%) during the week before the race.
  • Consumed less than the recommended amount of carbohydrates, and more specifically cereals and potatoes, dairy products, vegetables, and legumes.
  • On the contrary ate an excess of pastries, sweets and dried fruits.


  • Intake of meat was associated with higher levels of CK and MYO.
  • Intake of fish could decrease CK, TNI, and TNT levels. It could be related with the anti-inflammatory properties of fatty acids present in fish oil.
  • Olive oil was found to decrease post-race levels of TNI and TNT. Well known for improving biomarkers of cardiovascular disease, it also did so after the marathon, probably because its high content in polyphenols, with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. We already focused one of our previous posts on this topic.
  • Vegetables consumption is usually associated with a healthier diet. Carotenoids and
    flavonoids, among other compounds have antioxidant effects, protective against
    muscle and cardiac damage. Higher consumption was associated with lower EIMD levels.



During the previous week of a marathon you should try to:

  • Eat LESS high-fat food, such as butter or fatty meats.
  • Eat MORE fish, vegetables and olive oil.

Although the study had some limitations (small number of participants, no female runners, absence of elite athletes, Mediterranean Diet background…) the diet recommendations are easy to follow during the previous week of a marathon.

It would be easy to adjust your diet during the last days before your next marathon and see how your body responds. Then you could decide for yourself.

Thanks for reading.



Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage and Cardiac Stress During a Marathon Could be Associated with Dietary Intake During the Week Before the Race.

Mielgo-Ayuso J, Calleja-González J, Refoyo I, León-Guereño P, Cordova A, Del Coso J.

Nutrients. 2020 Jan 25;12(2). pii: E316. doi: 10.3390/nu12020316.


Rosa Mota in Seoul 1988

“It was the Greek gods who chose me to be a marathon runner”              Rosa Mota

Seoul was chosen as host of the 1988´s Olympics in 1981 ahead of the Japanese city of Nagoya. The Olympics were seen as an opening to show the world the country´s miraculous economic recovery. There was even a chance for the Games to be co-organised with North Korea, but their demands of keeping the opening and closing ceremonies and almost half of the disciplines were not met.

Thanks to the negotiating skills of the IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch the previous boycotts from Moscow 1980 and Los Angeles 1984 didn´t happen again. Finally, only North Korea, Cuba and Ethiopia didn´t attend.

The Olympics of Seoul 1988 were to be the last appearance by the Soviet Union, that once again topped the medal count. In athletics Florence Griffith Joyner set a still-standing world record for the 200m in 21.63. Not less impressive was the men 100m final, where Canadian Ben Johnson set also an explosive world record in 9.79…

But it is time to get back to the marathon scene for now. Women had already entered the Olympic marathon scene four years earlier, and they were hungry for success too.

The marathon was set for September 23rd at 9.30. Weather was warm and humid, and many of the top runners were present at the start line. Rosa Mota from Portugal was the recent winner of the Boston Marathon and world and European champion. Grete Waitz from Norway seemed also recovered after being most of 1987 injured. Also, at the highest level was Lisa Martin from Australia, winner of the Osaka marathon with the best time of 1988 (2.23.51). But there were also some missing athletes: Joan Benoit, recovering after giving birth, and Ingrid Kristiansen, who had decided to run the 10000m instead.

Rosa Mota was born in Porto. While in high school she run cross-country races but decided to participate in the first-ever women marathon, in the 1982 European Championships in Athens, where she won. After her success she competed in many international marathons achieving good results. Her previous experience in the Olympics finished with a third place in Los Angeles 1984. She arrived at Seoul as one of the favourites, being the World and European champion.

The Olympic marathon started with 69 runners from 39 countries. The rolling course, humidity and absence of shaded areas suggested a difficult race. By the 10k (34.13) most of the important runners were in a big leading pack of 21.

Weakest runners slowly started to fall behind. When the leading pack crossed the 20k (1.08.46) the 21 runners had become only 13, and the group was getting smaller. By the 30k (1.43.13) only four runners were at the lead: Mota and Martin, accompanied by Katrin Dörre from East Germany and Tatyana Polovinskaya from the Soviet Union. They were 34s ahead of the nearest runner.

The next section was uphill, and the pace slowed. Coming from behind Zhao Youfeng from China was trying to connect with the group ahead. At the 39k there was a short uphill section. With temperature rising Mota took advantage of her ability to run in the heat and pulled ahead of her fellow runners. Crossing the 40k (2.18.10) she had an advantage of 14s with Martin and one more with Dörre.

Medal positions were not to change and Mota crossed the finish line in 2.25.40. Thus, silver medal went to Martin in 2.25.55 and the bronze to Dörre in 2.26.23.

Mota became the first Portuguese woman to win an Olympic gold medal. Her victory was not her last, as she won again the 1990 European championship, the Boston Marathon in 1990 for a third time and the London Marathon of 1991, before retiring in 1992. She is widely recognised as one of the best women marathoners in history and has continued linked to the Portuguese sports scene since then.


More to watch:

A short video interview with Mota commenting her Olympic victory in:–oaANk



 “The Olympic Marathon”, DE Martin & RWH Gynn. Human Kinetics, 2000.

Seoul 1988 Olympic Medals


Off-road running types and characteristics

We continue with our recap of the main off-road running varieties. For a summary check the summary image that accompanies this post.


Hill running (or fell running)

This discipline is off-road, and usually including difficult climbs. It has common features with trail, mountain, and cross country running.

It is mainly practiced in the UK, being the governing body the FRA (Fell Running Association), with links with British Athletics but not recognised by World Athletics. The oldest event is the Ben Nevis race, taking place since 1937.

The races are classified in different ways:

  • By duration: from minutes to 24h, and even multi-day events in wild mountainous environments.
  • By distance: categories “S” (short) <10k; “M” (medium) >10k but <20k; “L” (long) >20k.
  • By ascent: from 50m climb/km to 20m climb/km, and categories A to C.

Navigation skills and survival equipment are often required (category G if electronic devices are allowed, or NG if they are not). For multi-day events participants usually carry all the equipment and sustenance for overnight camping.



Orienteering has four varieties: foot, trail, ski and mountain bike.

The international governing body is the IOF (International Orienteering Federation), recognised by the Olympic Committee, but not World Athletics.

The course is unmarked, with participants using their navigation skills. Depending on the distance events can be sprint, middle or long-distance ones. Competition may be individual, teams or relay.


Obstacle Course Racing (OCR)

This discipline involves athletes on foot overcoming different obstacles. The FISO (Fédération Internationale de Sports d’Obstacles) founded in 2018 is the international governing body.

Events are many with very different obstacles and distances. They can take place in the wilderness, stadium, urban, beach or indoor venues. Adventure racing is an OCR disciplines with events going from hours to expeditions of 1000k.


Cross country running

This discipline takes place off-road, and usually involves loops on a course covered by grass, earth or mats, marked and 5m wide. Distances range between 4 and 12k, but international competitions are held on a 10k course.

Participants are fully supported and is governed by World Athletics.


Ultramarathon running

This discipline is defined uniquely by distance and governed by the IAU (International Association of Ultrarunners), recognised by World Athletics.

Most races are run in natural environments and fall also in the trail running category. Timed ultra-endurance events such as 6, 12 or 24h events, and multi-day events are also often categorised as ultramarathons.

The longest ultramarathon is the “Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race” that takes place in Queens, New York and gives 52 days for completion.


Recommendations by the Ultra Sports Science Foundation

There should be a clear reference to distance, surface, elevation change and altitude. Additionally, the information should include also if the event is continuous or staged, type of support, name, year and governing body.

Terms such “ultramarathon”, “ultra-running” and “ultra-endurance” are vague by themselves. Extra information should be provided. Similar can be said of “trail” and “off-road” terms:  surface information should be given too.

Giving the most detailed information of an event to athletes will ensure that they can choose the most appropriate event according to their abilities. Doing so will ensure successful completion and avoid undesired incidents.



Defining Off-road Running: A Position Statement from the Ultra Sports Science Foundation.

Scheer V, Basset P, Giovanelli N, Vernillo G, Millet GP, Costa RJS

Int J Sports Med. 2020 Feb 14. doi: 10.1055/a-1096-0980.

Photo by Marc Rafanell López (Unsplash)


Running Modalities

Off-road running events are described as races in unsealed surface and natural environments. They are increasingly popular, but the terminology is confusing, and often is difficult to differentiate among them.

Races are usually differentiated by distance, terrain, elevation change and sometimes time. For example, an ultramarathon is usually defined by its distance, longer than 42k, but depending on the terrain or elevation change the ultramarathon could also be described as a trail, hill or skyrunning race.

A recent article with the collaboration of the Ultra Sports Science Foundation (USSF, has reviewed the nomenclature of these disciplines. In accordance with the many governing bodies they have offered recommendations to classify and describe races properly and avoid future confusions.

We will focus this post and the next one in explaining the main characteristics of each off-road running type, and finish with a series of recommendations for better understanding future events.


Trail running

Trail running is the most popular discipline in off-road running.

The main characteristics are:

  • Course on a natural environment with a maximum of 25% on paved roads.
  • Route properly marked.
  • Commonly in self-sufficiency between aid stations.

ITRA (International Trail Running Association) is the international governing body since 2013 (recognised by World Athletics in 2015).

In 2018 it was established a category system in “km-effort”, considering the distance in kilometres plus a hundredth of the gain in meters:

[km-effort] = distance (in km) + (vertical gain (in m) / 100)

Therefore, seven categories exist, from XXS (easiest course) to XXL (hardest course). Depending on the course effort a classification system was introduced by ITRA to rank athletes. For elite runners ITRA organises annually world championship races.


Mountain running

Mountain running has the same rules than trail running regarding the terrain, surface and course markings. Although most of the races are off-road, they can use paved roads if there is large elevation change on the course.

Other characteristics:

  • Distance ranks from 1k to 42k.
  • Average incline should include a minimum of 5% and not exceed 25%.
  • Additional support equipment is not allowed (bags, sticks, ropes or compasses).

WMRA (World Mountain Running Association) is the governing body since 1984.

Races are classified in one of the following categories: uphill, uphill & downhill, vertical (incline no less than 25%) and long-distance.



Skyrunning races take place in mountainous environments, usually above 2000m above sea level, and using highly technical trails. If the average inclination is higher than 6% races can happen at lower altitudes.

ISF (International Skyrunning Federation) regulates this discipline, still unrecognised by World Athletics.

Races are categorised in three categories:

  • Sky: 20-49k with 1300m vertical climb.
  • Ultra: 50-99k with 3200m vertical climb.
  • Vertical: uphill race up to 5k with 1000m vertical climb.

The main difference with mountain and trail running is that skyrunning involves highly technical mountain environments.

Photo by Asoggetti (Unsplash)


      No Comments on THE SELF-CARE SPORT

In sport as in life we have better and worse times. As when we are running a marathon, in life we also have sometimes the feeling of colliding with a wall.

In this post we would like to talk about some strategies or skills to be able to face the most complicated moments. Among these tools we would highlight:

  1. Talk about joyful things;
  2. Be grateful for what you have;
  3. Do something that gives us pleasure (reading a book, going to the movies, having an ice cream);
  4. Taking care of yourself as well as your appearance;
  5. Visualize what you want instead of settling for what you have;
  6. Think of solutions rather than problems using creativity;
  7. Limit negatives thoughts;
  8. Commit to projects that make sense to you;
  9. Sincerely believe that you deserve to be happy.

We should take advantage of this unique moment in our lives to practice the sport of self-care. As in the practice of any sport self-care requires regularity, persistence and determination.

Our pace of physical activity and the practice of a sport add years of health and well-being to our lives. When we take care of our emotional dimension, we not only strengthen our mood, but we also become more resilient to life’s obstacles.

We will feel that life is a gift that we must always enjoy from a perspective of gratitude and pleasurable. All life asks of us is to take care of ourselves physically and emotionally.


Women running numbers are continuously increasing. In the 2013-2016 period, approximately 57% of all runners completing a race event were women. Some of these women eventually get pregnant and must decide whether continuing running or stop this activity.

It is well known that running promotes physical and mental health. Women who run regularly report physiological benefits such as stronger pelvic floor muscles, lower resting heart rate, and improved oxygen uptake (VO2max) among others.

Continuing previous running habits during pregnancy limit excessive weight gain and ensure a faster recovery after birth. Additionally, physical activity during pregnancy helps to maintain lean muscle mass while providing emotional, social and spiritual benefits.

Some years ago, medical guidelines recommended to restrict activities leading to an increase in heart rate for pregnant women. Nevertheless, current evidence promotes active women to keep with their levels of physical activity while they are comfortable and without complications that could make it unsafe. Despite this evidence some providers still have outdated ideologies and continue discouraging running.

Pregnancy induces physical changes apparent to the women before people around them notice. Once pregnancy is visible, living in their own bodies is scrutinized. It seems that everyone is authorised to asses also the risks their behaviour could bring to the foetus.

Some of the current guidelines for guiding perinatal healthcare has been criticised recently for being too focused on how the mother must prepare herself for her baby´s needs. Without evidence of an objectively risky behaviour women should also be able of controlling their lives.


The “Doing Pregnancy” approach

The recent “Doing Pregnancy” approach tries to equilibrate the needs from the baby with those related with the physical wellbeing of the mother. Pregnant women have the capability of adjusting daily behaviour according with her physical changes and bodily sensations within cultural norms.

There are 3 processes in this framework:

  • Learning to do pregnancy: women compare their previous body with the pregnant one while monitoring changing sensations and taking advices.
  • Adapting to do pregnancy: women decide if follow, ignore or challenge advice based on their own sense of healthy living.
  • Performing to audiences: adapting behaviour to underpin support from supportive individuals or avoid scrutiny from unsupportive ones.


The mother-runner community

A study tried to get women opinion, sampling from the “Another Mother Runner (AMR” community. This online community of mother-runners is full of interesting information about issues related to running during motherhood, childbearing and beyond.

For women who were already runners, the act of running is a vital part of their lives and identity. Beyond the physical activity is a source of empowerment: a running woman is seen as a modern woman with the time and resources necessary to run.

During pregnancy women tune their activity to changing sensations, adjusting activity levels if necessary. Running withdrawal could carry a moral weight. This should be accounted by midwives, nurses and physicians, who should promote self-management of health in running women during pregnancy.



“I am a Runner”: A qualitative analysis of women-runners’ pregnancy experiences.

Ohlendorf JM, Anklam AL, Gardner L

Women Birth. 2019 Jun;32(3): e307-e314. doi: 10.1016/j.wombi.2018.07.021.

Alysia Montaño, 800m US runner in the National Championships while 5-months pregnant


This is the first part of a monographic about sports and pregnancy. In this entry we are going to explain the main effects of exercise on women and foetus, and what are the actual recommendations. In the next one we will focus specifically in running women.

Firstly, we can distinguish two categories of pregnant women:

  • Previously sedentary: recommend gradual progression of exercise beginning with walking program.
  • Previously active: no safe upper level of intensity established. Continue previous fitness routine if there is an uncomplicated pregnancy.


Physiological changes of pregnancy for women can be classified in:


  • Weight gain
  • Shifted center of gravity
  • Increased ligamentous laxity


  • Increased blood volume: up to 50% at term
  • Increased heart rate: resting can increase 10-15 bpm
  • Increased stroke volume and cardiac output
  • Decreased systemic vascular resistance and blood pressure


  • Increased tidal volume and minute ventilation: up to 50%
  • Physiologic decrease of pulmonary reserve
  • Decreased oxygen availability


Exercise effects on the foetus:

  • Increased heart rate: 10 to 30 bpm over baseline during/immediately after exercise
  • No clinically significant difference in birth weight
  • Assessment of umbilical artery blood flow, heart rate and biophysical profile before/after 30 minutes of exercise showed that it was well tolerated
  • Better tolerance of labor process


Exercise effects on the mother:

  • Fitness improvement/maintenance
  • Decreased overall pregnancy weight gain
  • Decreased incidence of gestational diabetes mellitus (or improved blood glucose control in patients with it)
  • Reduced risk of preeclampsia (gestational high blood pressure)
  • Decreased rate of caesarean deliveries
  • Decreased labor and postpartum recovery times

Up to 40 min of moderate exercise is well tolerated by low-risk pregnant women.


Exercise general guidelines would be:

  • Ensure adequate hydration
  • Walking, strength training, and water exercises are safe for almost all women
  • Biking is safe during the first trimester but advised against as pregnancy progresses because of balance changes and fall risk
  • Avoid activities with high fall risk, high altitude, supine positions (some in yoga and Pilates) and scuba diving


Stop exercise if you observe:

  • Vaginal bleeding or leaking fluid
  • Regular contractions
  • Dyspnea, or breathing difficulty
  • Dizziness or Headache
  • Chest pain
  • Muscle weakness affecting balance
  • Calf pain or swelling


Contraindications to exercise:

  • Hemodynamically significant heart disease
  • Restrictive lung disease
  • Incompetent cervix/cerclage
  • Multiple gestation
  • Second/third trimester bleeding
  • Placenta previa (obstruction of the uterus by the placenta) after 26 wk of gestation
  • Premature rupture of membranes or labour
  • Preeclampsia (high arterial pressure)
  • Severe anaemia

In our next entry we are going to focus on running women, and how they tackle with training and the body and physical changes of pregnancy.



Exercise During Pregnancy.

Albright E.

Curr Sports Med Rep. 2016 Jul-Aug;15(4):226-7. doi: 10.1249/JSR.0000000000000277.

Picture by Dan Evans (Pixabay)


“More than being first,

hero is who knows to give everything,

and inside him,

go further”


Carlos Lopes

Los Angeles was chosen as host for the Olympics for a second time, after having organised them also in 1932. The only other candidate for 1984 was Tehran, which withdrew itself after the Iranian Revolution. Strangely to the usual over costs of organising such events, these Olympics were a management example: low construction costs and private funding allowed a 250 million dollars profit. The old 1932 Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum was refurbished for using it as the Olympic Stadium again, and college campus were used instead of building an Olympic Village.

Because of the boycott from the United States to Moscow 1980, 14 Eastern Bloc countries wouldn´t participate in Los Angeles 1984, including the Soviet Union and East Germany. Only the former Yugoslavia and Romania though decided to participate, with the latest finishing second in the medal list, only behind the United States that topped the rankings for the first time since 1968.

In athletics Carl Lewis got 4 gold medals equalling what Jesse Owens did in Berlin 1936. Sebastian Coe, from the UK became the first athlete to win the 1500m races twice, while Nawal El Moutawakel became the first Muslim African woman to win an Olympic medal, after his victory in the inaugural 400m hurdles.

The marathon would start on the track of the Santa Monica City College and finish in the Olympic Stadium. The course was quite hilly, especially in the first eight kilometres, mostly uphill, and again, although more gradually in the last ten.

With quality marathons on the rise there were more choices for countries to select their Olympic teams. Some countries such as United States and Japan still had Olympic trials, while others chose the pre-Olympic marathon taking place in Los Angeles as the trial race.

Waldemar Cierpinski, winner in the last two Olympics was missing because of the Soviet Union boycott, but most of the fastest marathoners were present. Alberto Salazar from the United States was the world-record holder. Rob de Castella from Australia was the reigning world champion, and unbeaten in a marathon in four years. There was also a powerful Japanese team (Toshihiko Seko and the twin brothers Shigeru and Takeshi Soh) and many top African athletes feared for their racing: front running from the start, in a “win all-lose all” strategy.

Carlos Alberto de Sousa Lopes was born in Vildemoinhos, near Viseu, Portugal, in a humble family. Since very young he worked to help his family. He liked football but found by chance that he was good at running. At 16 was third in the Junior Cross-Country National Championships and signed by the athletics team of the Sporting Clube de Portugal, in Lisbon, to train under the guidance of Martin Moniz Pereira.

He participated without success in the Olympics of Munich in 1972, although it wasn’t until 1976 when he started achieving success, by winning the World Cross-Country Championships. In the Olympics of Montreal 1976 he won a silver medal in the 10000 metres, only behind the great Lasse Virén. After these Olympics Lopes didn´t come to prominence again until 1982 (he wasn´t able to qualify for Moscow 1980) by breaking the European record in the 10000 metres. By the end of that year he decided to prove the marathon distance in New York. Although he didn´t finish, Lopes found that he could compete at the top in the marathon distance.

One year later Lopes finished second in the Rotterdam marathon, and the following year, with the Olympics in sight, he was able to revalidate his cross-country world title and run the second fastest 10000 metres in history, by helping his teammate Fernando Mamede to break the world record in the distance. He was luckily unhurt after a car run over him in Lisbon only one week before the Olympics. Despite this he was ready for Los Angeles 1984 marathon, his third Olympic appearance.

The marathon was scheduled for August 5th at 17.00. Women had already competed in the morning, with Joan Benoit becoming the first female Olympic winner. Temperature was 23°C in the shade of a dry desert environment, and a course mostly exposed to the sunshine. 107 athletes were in the start line representing 59 countries: the most global Olympic marathon till then.

As expected, African athletes took the initial lead. The 10k (31.09) was crossed first by Ahmed Ismail, from Somalia, a short distance ahead of the favourites. Just before the 20k the Japanese Takeshi Soh decided to test the field, crossing it in 1.01.20, with a 6s gap over Lopes, Joseph Nzau (Kenya) and Gidamis Shahanga (Tanzania), followed closely by two big groups. Nothing was clear yet, besides Salazar failure, as he had fallen well behind the top places.

The 2.09 marathon pace was fast: only a few runners had been able to run faster before. Despite this, by the 30k (1.33.02) up to 12 runners were still within a 2s range: Never victory had been so close for so many! By the 35k the lead group was only a trio, with Lopes, John Treacy (Ireland) and Charles Spedding (UK). Reaching the 37k was now or never: Lopes increased his pace length opening a gap with the remaining two runners at the front, and they couldn´t follow it! His 5k split from 30 to 35k had been 15.21, but only 14.33 from the 35 to 40k!

Lopes entered the stadium track and claimed victory in 2.09.21, a new Olympic record. The other two front runners were still 200 metres behind, with the silver medal going finally to the Irish Treacy (2.09.56), who surpassed Spedding (2.09.58) already in the stadium track.

Lopes was the oldest gold medallist in Los Angeles 1984 (and still the oldest in the Olympic marathon), and the only runner with Steve Mimoun to win in the same year the Olympic marathon and the World Cross-Country Championships. Back in Portugal he was received as a national hero, although he carried on with his usual training. His marathon career was not over yet. In 1985, back in Rotterdam for its marathon, he stopped the clock in 2.07.12 setting a world-record that would stand for three years. It was though the last marathon he finished. A series of injuries ended prematurely his running career in 1985.


More to watch:

A video with end of the marathon in:



“The Olympic Marathon”, DE Martin & RWH Gynn. Human Kinetics, 2000.

Los Angeles 1984 logo
Sam the Eagle. Los Angeles 1984 official mascot


“There’s not a better feeling than when you have found that moment of balance and harmony when both running and life come together. Then you know why you run and that you couldn’t live without it.”


Joan Benoit

A lot did happen before women could compete in the Olympic marathon. Much was thanks to German coach and physician Ernst van Aaken, who in the last 60s already encouraged women to long distance running while trying to convince governing bodies of organising women´s championships and women-only races. He organised the first women marathon championships in his hometown, Waldniel, in West Germany. Victory was for Christa Kofferschläger in 2.59.25. 00The United States followed suit organising their first championships one year later, with victory for Judy Ikenberry in 2.55.18.

With scientific data proving that women were as capable of running a marathon than men, women marathoners and performances improved dramatically. By 1979 the world record stood in 2.27.32 (Grete Waitz), when the 3 hours barrier was still unbroken by 1970. The Boston marathon was the first to allow women to enter and wear official race numbers in 1972. The victory was for Nina Kuscsik in 3.10.26, although she had already run “unofficially” the three previous editions. Many more women-only marathons appeared in the calendar.

Nevertheless, it wasn’t until February 1982 that the IOC members decided that the women Olympic marathon would take place. Before Olympics women marathon debuted in the European Championships of 1982 in Athens, with victory for the Portuguese Rosa Mota in 2.36.04.

Los Angeles hosted the Olympics for a second time, after having done so in 1932. Because of the boycott from the United States to Moscow 1980, 14 Eastern Bloc countries didn´t participate in Los Angeles 1984, including the Soviet Union and East Germany. In athletics Carl Lewis got 4 gold medals equalling what Jesse Owens did in Berlin 1936. Among women Nawal El Moutawakel became the first Muslim African woman to win an Olympic medal, after his victory in the inaugural 400m hurdles.

Joan Benoit was born in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, in the United States. In college she was not very good in athletics. Her first marathon was in 1979, by chance, after registering for a marathon as a “long run” the day after winning a 10k race. She easily finished second and decided to try her luck in the Boston Marathon two months later, that she won. Her marathon career had started. She won a few more marathons and set a world record (2.22.43) in Boston in 1983 before classifying for the 1984 Olympics.

The Olympic marathon would start on the track of the Santa Monica City College to finish in the Olympic Stadium. The course was quite hilly, especially in the first eight and last ten kilometres sections. It was scheduled for August 5th, the same day than the men, at 8.00.

49 women from 28 countries were present for the inaugural marathon race. Besides Benoit most of the big names were running: from Norway Ingrid Kristiansen, with the European record (2.24.26), and Grete Waitz, with five consecutive victories in the New York marathon 1979-83; British Joyce Smith, already 46 and winner of Tokyo 1979-80 and London 1981-82; and Rosa Mota, from Portugal, European champion and winner of the Chicago marathon in 1983.

During the uphill first kilometres the course obliged for a slow pace, crossing the 5k in 18.15. When it turned downhill pace fastened, arriving to the 10k (35.24) with Benoit leading, only 5s ahead of Kristiansen. Many runners were still shortly behind.

Getting to the 20k (1.08.32) Benoit´s lead was already 72s over Mota, who was herself 12s ahead of Kristiansen and Italian Laura Fogli. Things were turning good for Benoit, as her advantage only increased as kilometres went by. By the 30k (1.42.23) she was almost 2 minutes ahead of a group with Mota, Kristiansen and Waitz.

With temperature on the rise and the course getting to an exposed roadway the pace slowed for everyone. Arriving to the 40k Benoit was still 87s ahead of Waitz. Victory was almost hers. Thus, Benoit crossed the finish line to become the first Olympic marathon winner in 2.24.52, with the whole stadium recognising such achievement. Second place was for Waitz (2.26.18) and third for Mota (2.26.57), both unable to close the distance with the powerful Benoit.

Benoit´s winning time was better than the time achieved by male winners in 13 Olympic marathons!

After the Olympics Benoit got married and won in Boston again in 1985. Injuries prevented her for competing again in the Olympics of 1988 and 1992, although she has continued competing in the marathon distance with great success. In master category she has won in world class marathons while setting a long series of records. Her last achievement was in 2019, when in order to celebrate the 40th anniversary of her first victory in the Boston Marathon she managed to finish in 3.04.00, at 61 and accompanied by her daughter.

She has never retired from a marathon race.

In our next entry we will tell what happened in the men marathon.


More to watch:

A video with highlights of the marathon in:



“The Olympic Marathon”, DE Martin & RWH Gynn. Human Kinetics, 2000.

Los Angeles Olympic Coliseum