Athletics / World Marathon Cup: Nerurkar's win planned to perfection

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The Independent Online
RICHARD NERURKAR confirmed his status as a world- class marathon runner here yesterday by winning the fifth World Cup. His time of 2hr 10min 03sec helped Britain's men earn the team bronze in the International Amateur Athletic Association's biennial event, which they won when it was held in conjunction with the 1991 London marathon.

This year's competition commanded unusual attention because of the presence of the Chinese women, who have recently set new standards in middle- distance running. As expected they achieved a clean sweep, with their first four finishers - the 1500 metres world record- holder, Qu Junxia, dropped out early with a foot injury - taking the first four places.

Wang Junxia, who set world records at 3,000 and 10,000m in September, was a clear winner in 2:28.16, although she was not in the shape to threaten Ingrid Kristiansen's eight-year- old world best of 2:21:03. That challenge, undoubtedly, will come.

Nerurkar's performance in his second marathon was no more surprising than that of the Chinese - at least, not to him and his coach of six years, Bruce Tulloh, who have planned for this race meticulously for more than a year.

Having realised that his near misses at 10,000m - fifth in the 1990 European Championships, fifth in the 1991 World Championships - betokened a greater potential over 26 miles and 385 yards, Nerurkar tested the theory last May, winning the Hamburg marathon.

Yesterday's race, which despite a first prize of pounds 26,000 was never likely to attract the main bulk of the world's top runners, offered an ideal chance to progress before seeking even greater satisfaction at the 1994 European Championships.

This 29-year-old languages graduate of Oxford and Harvard, who gave up teaching Russian at Marlborough College two years ago to concentrate on running, has fashioned his schedule accordingly. He did not run in the World Championships. He trained at altitude in Kenya and the Pyrenees. Two weeks before the event he produced a 10-mile time of 46min 02sec which, if ratified, will be the fastest on record.

'There was no element of surprise to me that I won the race,' Nerurkar said. 'I like to think I left no stone unturned.' In the last couple of weeks, he has rehearsed his drink-gathering technique on runs around the Marlborough roads; Tulloh had driven ahead to lay-bys and set up, surreally, a single bottle on a folding garden table.

The finest of fine tuning took place in the minutes before the start of yesterday's race, as Tulloh toured the course shifting Nerurkar's water bottles on the tables. 'I moved them all forward two inches,' he said, 'so that he wouldn't have to bend down to pick them up.'

That, and everything else, went to plan. Nerurkar, graceful and upright, stayed among the leaders throughout as Diomede Cishahayo, of Burundi, and then Spain's Diego Garcia, ninth in the Olympics, took up the running. The Briton broke away decisively on a slight incline just before 24 miles.

A momentary impulse? Not likely. 'I visited the course in September and thought it would be quite a good point to make an attack,' he said in his precise way, sounding like an analytical chess player. His next move - an advance upon the World Cross-country Championships in Budapest four months hence - should be interesting.

The additional medal on the day was secured by the performances of the two other scoring Britons, Dave Buzza, who was 11th in a personal best of 2:11.06, and Andrew Green, 16th in 2:12.57.

Wang, who won despite carrying a slight injury after breaking away in the 18th mile, was not under pressure to attack Kristiansen's record. 'I didn't ask her to run to the utmost after her world records,' Junren said. 'I was afraid if she ran the race with all her energy it might be bad for her. She will be a good marathon runner for five, 10 years.' A fearsome prospect.

Wang said she had been hurt by the widespread accusations that the Chinese were using illegal methods in training. 'In China we have a saying,' she said. 'If you have done nothing bad, you do not feel afraid if someone knocks on the door.'

Brazil's Luis Dos Santos overcame freezing temperatures, bitter wind and snow to win the Chicago Marathon yesteray. He clocked 2hr 13min 14sec. Ritva Lementinen, of Finland, won the women's race in a personal best of 2:33.00.

Results, Sporting Digest, page 31