Home A Column By Len Johnson

A Column By Len Johnson

Len Johnson wrote for The Melbourne Age as an athletics writer for over 20 years, covering five Olympics, 10 world championships and five Commonwealth Games.

He has been the long-time lead columnist on RT and is one of the world’s most respected athletic writers.

He is also a former national class distance runner (2.19.32 marathon) and trained with Chris Wardlaw and Robert de Castella among other running legends. He is the author of The Landy Era.

This thought came to mind after watching Genevieve Gregson run 2:23:08 in last Sunday’s Valencia marathon. Just as she has so many times now throughout her career, Gregson produced on the big occasion. When it mattered. If you wanted someone to run for your life, Genevieve Gregson would be a pretty good choice.
Beer tunnels, a bridge across the track taking spectators to the infield, food trucks, flash tattoos and a DJ – spectators above a certain age had to be advised this was not a reference to a ‘superior’ department store but the job description of the bloke playing the music – meant there was never a dull moment. In deference to the same spectators, the volume was mercifully lowered.
This weekend, the world’s best current 10,000 metres runner will be contesting the Valencia marathon. That’s Joshua Cheptegei of Uganda in case you’ve not been paying attention. He has won the 10,000 gold medal at the past three world championships.
Since you ask, the five male nominees are Kelvin Kiptum, Neeraj Chopra, Noah Lyles, Ryan Crouser and Mondo Duplantis; the female nominees are Tigst Assefa, Femke Bol, Faith Kipyegon, Shericka Jackson and Yulimar Rojas.
It’s safe to say the combined value of the shoes worn by the women’s lead pack in New York last weekend – even adjusted for inflation – would have been many times that of Pizzolato’s shoes (just as his would have been way above those worn by Emil Zatopek and Jim Peters).
New York offers one of the strongest women’s fields ever assembled.
It’s too early for most of us to be thinking about the Brisbane 2032 Olympic marathons just yet (though it’s worth pointing out that new men’s world record holder Kelvin Kiptum will be ‘only’ 32 years old then).
At the past two world championships, Eugene22 and Budapest23, there were 108 places available in the 10,000 metres. Guess how many were filled by Australians? One, just one. A big ‘come on down’ to Jack Rayner who ran the 10,000 in Oregon. In Budapest, there were no Aussies.
Australian athletics has been impacted by the tyranny of distance – and the tyranny of seasons – through 2023. And that won’t change as we enter 2024.
There’s a lot of noise about shoes right now, a rumble that only intensified when Tigst Assefa ran that other-worldly women’s marathon world record 2:11:53 in Berlin. In case you missed it, Assefa was shod in the very latest adidas super-shoe.