9/11 Terrorist Attacks Can’t Stop Philadelphia Distance Run


Runner’s World Daily Magazine


Monday September 17, 2001


Ndereba sets Philadelphia Half-Marathon record

By David Block


If the destruction of the Trade Center and the Pentagon had not occurred last week, the most noteworthy fact of the 24th running of the Philadelphia Distance Run would have been that Catherine Ndereba had bettered Joan Benoit Samuelson’s long-standing course record of 1:08:34, which she set back in 1984. However, Ndereba’s new course record of 1:08:30 cannot be compared to the fact that the Philadelphia Distance Run even took place.


After last Tuesday’s tragedies, the Distance Run Race Director Mark Stewart wondered if the race should take place. Although he has gotten much enjoyment in his 14 years as race director, he said that the race was very insignificant compared to what happened.


Immediately after the explosions, Stewart was numb. An hour later he was forced to evacuate the huge Philadelphia-based building where he worked, and much of the city of Philadelphia was shut down. “I was not thinking about the Distance Run,” said Stewart.


When Stewart returned to work the next day, he got at least 50 e-mails from runners, insisting that the race take place.


“Some of the e-mails said, ‘It’s a bad time. We need this race so we can come together,'” said Stewart. “Other e-mails said, ‘If you cancel the race, the terrorists win.’         

The runners really pushed for this race to happen, but there was the question of whether we would be able to get police and medics on the course.” Stewart thought that      Philadelphia police officials and medics might have to go to New York, but they were not needed. Wednesday night, less than 48 hours after the destruction, Stewart was informed by the city of Philadelphia that police and medics would be at the Distance Run.


“That was when the race committee and I decided to have the race,” said Stewart.


Before the race started, over 7000 runners sang “God Bless America” as their way of acknowledging the tragedy. Moreover, it was their way of paying respect to two New York runners who were registered to compete, but were in the World Trade Center when the planes crashed into it, and are still missing.


“This race is different from football and baseball,” said Stewart. “It’s not people cheering over who catches the ball, it’s about people participating, doing it for themselves. These runners are competing against each other, but there is a great camaraderie in the sport. People were here because they felt a need to reconnect with people, and get away from their TVs.”


Bill Fleischman, a sports writer for the Daily News climbed into the press truck with the other reporters before the race and made small talk about there being no football and baseball this weekend. “The Distance Run might actually be our lead story, can you believe that?” said Fleischman.


When the race began, Ndereba felt confident that she could win, but was uncertain if she would break the course record. “I was thinking about the victims and I wanted to run for them,” said Ndereba. However,      Ndereba knew that she could beat the 17-year-old record after seeing her ten mile split of 52:23. “I’ve been chasing the course for years,” said Ndereba, who also won here in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000.


Her time of 1:08:30 was also the fastest woman’s half-marathon ever run in the U.S., edging the previous all-comer’s record of 1:08:32 set by Ingrid Kristiansen at the 1989 New Bedford Half-Marathon.

Another major record fell when 40-year-old Ramilya Burangulova of Russia set a world masters record of 1:11:41. Nicole Leveque of France had the previous record of 1:11:54,      although Leveque also ran 1:11:35 on a non-record quality point-to-point course. Swedish master Evy Palm also was credited with a 1:11:18 on a course of unknown accuracy.


In the men’s field yesterday, Ronald Mogaka won with a 1:01:25 clocking. In the beginning of the race, John Kagwe was in the lead, but eventually faded to fifth as Simon Kasimili moved up to second. Kenyan men filled the top eight places.