Beijing Stories: The Beijing 50k, by Elliott Denman


If one is going to cover the longest and most grueling event on the athletic schedule in Beijing, then, perhaps, find a writer who has endured the 50,000m RW in an Olympic setting (1956). The 50k piece was written by Elliott Denman, who did such a nice piece on Robbie Andrews last night!

Toth_MatejWater1-Walk20k13.jpgMatej Toth, 20k Walk from 2013, photo from

The 50k Beijing 2015
BEIJING - "I Walk Alone," music by Jule Styne, lyics by Sammy Cahn, first hit the charts in 1944.Dinah Shore, Martha Tilton, Don Cornell, Ricky Nelson, Nancy Wilson, Marty Robbins have all belted out popular renditions over the years.
And Matej - just call him "Matty" - Toth of Slovakia sang it all over again as he strolled the ring road outside Bird's Nest Stadium, all alone and out front, on the eighth day and second Saturday morning of the 15th World Championships of Track and Field.
"I like it that way, I can keep my thoughts under control," said 32-year-old Toth after his virtually-solo three-hour, 40-minute, 32-second triumph in the 50-kilometer racewalk was put in the books as the first gold medal Slovakia has ever won at the Worlds.
He took the lead right at the start inside the stadium and never lost it over the 24 2K laps on the outside ring road (yes, even with a 30-second potty break around 31K), before breezing into the Bird's Nest for the concluding 200 meters.
Handed a Slovakian flag just before he got into the stadium, he proudly waved it overhead and then draped himself in it for those joyous concluding moments.
"I think I will make my country proud," he said.
"And my family (wife and two kids), too.
"I've hardly seen them in the last eight or 10 weeks (spent in an altitude training camp in Livogno, Italy) so it will now be time to do family things again."
Although he won the World Cup 50K back in 2010, he's better known for chasing other people. When Yohan Diniz of France (unfortunately injured and out of this one) raced to a phenomenal 50K world record of 3:32:33 at the 2014 European Championships, Toth took the silver. At previous World Championship 50Ks, he finished fifth at Moscow in 2013 and 10th at Berlin in 2009.
This time, he was wasn't going to make it a shared experience. He'd cross the finish line before any other man entered the Bird's Nest.
Aussie Jared Tallent (adding to his extensive medal collection) seemed to be making a late charge at Toth somewhere past 40K before realizing it wasn't going to happen and settled for the silver in 3:42:17.
"For a while, I thought I was making up ground," said the 30-year-old Tallent who now owns two Olympic 50K silvers, one Worlds silver and two bronzes, plus an Olympic 20K bronze.
In earlier Worlds 20K action, he'd been 26th and his sister Rachel was 34th in the women's race.
Takayuki Tanii earned Japan's first medal of the meet with his 3:42.55 50K in third and countryman Hirooki Arai next in 3:43.44. Again proving how tough it is to score a repeat win in this longest and toughest of the standard international track tests, 2013 Moscow king Robert Heffernan of
Ireland (just off some surgeries) settled for fifth in 3:44:17, then vowed "I shall return and I will be there in Rio in a year's time."
(Robert Korzeniowski of Poland, with his 2001 win in Edmonton and 2003 victory in Paris, remains the only 50K man ever to win two
straight Worlds; Dr.K's 3:36:03 in 2003 remains the meet record.)
Special applause was reserved for Jesus Angel Garcia of Spain, a notable ninth in 3:46:43.
He'll be 46 in October and is the senior citizen of the whole meet - OK, apart from the Masters special exhibition runs.
World 50K champion back in 1993, with a string of 20K and 50K medals to his credit, he has now competed in a record total of 12 Worlds.
Ecuador's Andres Chocho (well known in New Jersey as winner of two straight Asbury Park Polar Bear 10-milers) led all South Americans, eighth in 3:46:00, with South Africa's Mark Mundell 33rd in 4:02:41 as his continent's leader.
Team USA, which had no entry in the men's 20K, had a single delegate to the 50K and that was Army man John Nunn.
Soldiering on despite major hamstring cramps past 35K, Nunn finished it
In 4:09:44 for 37th place. Fifty-three started, nine were DNFs, six were DQd.
"I was walking well and feeling good through a 1:58-something first 25K,"
said Nunn. "I really wanted to make this my first time under four hours.
I'd trained well, for two weeks in Japan, and thought I was ready for it. I was walking comfortably. But then things happened."
Notably absent, of course, were the walkers of Team Russia, voluntarily withdrawn from the Worlds by their national federation following a long list of drug suspensions.
"They're good athletes," said Toth. "I hope to see them at the World
Team Championship (next May in Cherboskary, Russia; I hope to see them at the Olympic Games, and I hope to see them clean."

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