Hot stuff for marathon men : Q&A

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The Independent Online
Q. Thirty to 40 years ago top-class marathon runners sometimes arrived at the finish in a state of extreme distress. Was their problem the wrong training, diet, tactics? Why do we not see such exhaustion today?

A. The prime reason for the distress seen at the end of marathon races three decades ago was probably dehydration and hyperthermia, although there were several other related causes. It should be remembered that before the jogging boom took off in the late 1970s, marathons were held on the public highway and the traffic was not stopped. Most races were held in the heat of summer and regulations did not allow for water stations until, I think, 12 miles and then every five miles. There were no sponge stations where the runners could obtain desperately needed relief from the effects of the heat.

The jogging boom forced a radical re-think on the policy of feed stations. Without it, there would certainly have been dire consequences. Similar reasons necessitated the closure of roads to traffic and the shift of most races to a cooler time of year.

A questionable cause might be the fact that most athletes did not take up running until the twilight of their careers. When they were past their prime at 5,000 and 10,000 metres (three and six miles then), the natural progression was to the longer classic distance. It was only when the likes of Brian Kilby and Ron Hill ran marathons while still in their prime that the race was dragged into the modern era. Coupled with an almost total lack of training advice and appalling footwear, it was a wonder that even they and their contemporaries could finish relatively stress free.

Athletes now are able to train full time because of the availability of prize money. It is far easier for a runner to prepare for the strains of 26 miles in athlete-friendly environs than engaging in a schedule of running to and from work, fitting in other sessions when and wherever possible. - Colin Kirkham (Commonwealth, European and Olympic marathon runner), Coventry

Q. Can anyone tell me the real reason for Belfast Celtic's withdrawal from the Irish League in 1949?

A. The reason for their withdrawal was an incident that brought shame and disgrace to Irish football and to Linfield football club, at which I was present. The date was 26 December 1948, and Belfast Celtic were playing Linfield in an Irish League fixture at Windsor Park; the teams were rivals, with a great deal of sectarian bitterness between both sets of supporters.

The game was played in a very tense atmosphere and during the first half a collision between two players, Bob Bryson of Linfield and Jimmy Jones, the young Celtic centre-forward, resulted in Bryson being taken off. At half-time the Linfield club made an announcement that Bryson had suffered a broken leg and had been taken to hospital. This announcement was a prime factor in what was to follow.

When the final whistle went (the game ended in a 1-1 draw), the Linfield supporters invaded the pitch and attacked the Celtic players. One of the them, Jimmy Jones, was knocked over a parapet where he received horrendous injuries, including a broken leg.

The punishment imposed on Linfield FC by the Irish FA was a joke. I believe they had their ground closed for a month and the directors of Belfast Celtic decided to withdraw from all competitive football and so brought to an end one of Ireland's most illustrious clubs. - John Neeson, Salford

Q. Given that American football's NFL does its best to maintain parity between teams by devices such as salary caps, player drafts and fixture lists weighted in favour of the weaker side, can anyone provide a rational explanation for the continued dominance of teams from the National Football Conference (NFC) - 11 Super Bowl wins in a row?

A. Though the NFC has dominated the Super Bowl, in this year's Pro Bowl, the AFC won convincingly and Marshall Faulk of the AFC's Indianapolis Colts was the Pro Bowl Most Valuable Player. - Christopher Toms, Shrewsbury


Q. Franco Baresi has spent his entire football career with Milan and this is his 18th season in the senior team. Which other footballers have spent so many years playing for the same club? - Lynn Yorke, Luton

Q. During the 1970 World Cup final, Pele wore the No 10 shirt, but what numbers did the other members of the team wear? - John E Davies, Southport

Q. Which Football League club has had the same shirt sponsors for the longest continuous time? - John R Evans, Caerwent, Gwent

Q. In the season 1973-74, Bramley RLFC won their only major trophy. This was the BBC2 Floodlit Trophy, but it was played against Widnes in the afternoon, due to Government restrictions on electricity during the "winter of discontent". Were there any other sporting occasions to match this during that period? - Kevin Maguire, Batley

If you know the answers to any of these questions, or have a sporting question of your own you would like answered write to:

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