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American marathon resurgence has international roadblock

Runners make their way through Queens during the

Runners make their way through Queens during the New York City Marathon. (Getty) Credit: Runners make their way through Queens during the New York City Marathon. (Getty)

When Meb Keflezighi busted through a 27-year-old barrier in 2009 and put a U.S. man atop the podium at the ING New York City Marathon, five of his compatriots finished in the top 10 with him.

Keflezighi’s historic win — together with recent podium-reaching efforts by Ryan Hall, Desiree Davila, Shalane Flanagan and other Americans — has led observers to hail a resurgence in American distance running after a dormant generation.

“It’s there,” said Keflezighi. “I mean, we can be competitive with others.”

But according to Alberto Salazar, whose 1983 New York win had long been the American benchmark here, more young runners must attain marathon-level strength before the U.S. can rival international speedsters from Ethiopia, Kenya and Europe.

“I think what’s going to happen is that these runners that are on the upswing in track, they’re going to eventually come to the marathon, and we’re going to have numbers,” said Salazar, 53, now a running coach with Nike. “But we need about eight of those guys.”

For now, the competition is still far ahead. Not a single American performance registers in the top 25 marathon times recorded this year among men or women.

“Despite the advantages in sports medicine, in nutrition, in footwear, in everything else — we’re getting slower,” said Jonathan Cane, a local coach with JackRabbit Sports. “Until we’re at least as fast as we were 20 years ago, it’s kind of hard to say, ‘Oh, look at these guys from impoverished African countries and all the advantages they have.’ Seems a little crazy to me.”

United States of Meb
Meb Keflezighi’s 2009 New York win was the first for an American man since 1983. An American woman has not finished first here since 1977. Here are some of the elite U.S. runners in this year’s field.
Men
    Bib No.    Name    Age
    7    Meb Keflezighi    36
    11    Bobby Curtis    26
    12    Ed Moran    30
    30    Michael Wardian    37
    53    Daniel Daly    26
    54    Ryan McDermott    22
Women
Bib No.        Name    Age
    116    Jen Rhines    37
    118    Lauren Fleshman    30
    120    Jennifer Houck    27
    121    Sarah Porter    22
    122    Molly Pritz    23
    124    Camille Herron    29
    126    Melisa Christian    29
    127    Jennifer DeRego    32
    128    Michelle Rorke    27
    129    Devon Crosby-Helms    29
    130    Tyler Stewart    33
    132    Erin Ward    37
    133    Emily Belli    34
    137    Katie Aldridge    38
    151    Caitlin Phillips    29
    152    Emily Field    29

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