The men’s and women’s marathons were held on Day 3 of the 2017 London World Championships. Held on a four loop course near the famous London Tower Bridge, the marathoners had fans the entire way.
Amy Cragg took the bronze medal in the marathon, with a gutty finish that required a kick over the last 385 meters. In gaining that medal, something she had discussed with her coach, Jerry Schumacher, who inspired her to focus on the medal and how she could do that, she completed a line with the late Marianne Dickerson, who took the lone other women’s marathon medal by an American way back in 1983.
I remember Marianne Dickerson and her medal. That day, I was completing a near 4 hour run in the hills of Rancho San Antonio, in San Jose, California, as I prepared for the upcoming Nike OTC Marathon. I came back to watch the NBC coverage of the World Championships that day, and was enthused to see Marianne win her bronze medal.
I recall watching Amy Hastings (now Cregg) run her first marathon not that long ago. Amy was gutty, as she had been racing the 10,000m on the track. Nice to see her pick up the medal she deserved, and I look forward to catching up with her and husband, Alistair Cragg, to congratualate Amy on her fine run in London.
In the mean time, enjoy this feature by Eliott Denman, our long time writer for American Athletics, American Track & Field and RunBlogRun as he, and rightly so, puts the historicial perspective on Amy Cragg’s magnifiscent run on Sunday!
AMY CRAGG, RUNNING TO WORLD GLORY,
IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF
THE LATE, GREAT MARIANNE DICKERSON
By ELLIOTT DENMAN
LONDON – With Arizona State University alumna Amy Cragg’s stunning bronze medal-performance in the women’s marathon at the 16th IAAF World Championships Sunday safely in the books,
initial reaction was a great-big “wow!”
Next came the question, “Wow, has this ever been done before?”
Which set the pundits to work examining the archives of the event, and to the discovery of
a runner named Marianne Dickerson.
“Discovery” is correct terminology here because, on the long list of America’s great women distance runners, Marianne Dickerson’s name is perhaps least remembered and appreciated.
And that’s a downright shame.
In the 15 previous women’s marathons at these Worlds, Dickerson was the one-and-only American ever to be invited to the podium. No one else has been even close.
She surely deserves to be ranked with the greats of her game, but she surely hasn’t….
It’s a long story.
A little less than a year before Joan Benoit’s epic, ground-breaking triumph in the marathon at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, Marianne Dickerson had run her way to a major podium position of her own.
The coming of the IAAF World Championships in 1983 meant that the planet’s greatest athletes would have a second global title to aspire to; the once-every-four-year Olympic Games would no longer be the only big big-one to train for each quadrennial. (By 1993, the IAAF Worlds were so successful they became a once-every-two-year, not four-year, thing meaning three biggies every four-year cycle.)
Thus. the women’s marathon in those 1983 Worlds , staged in Helsinki, became historic, too.
It most definitely paved the way for the golden opportunity Benoit claimed in L.A.
So when Dickerson (running 2:31:09) claimed the silver medal in the Helsinki marathon of ’83, back of Norway’s own magnificent Grete Waitz – who (running 2:28:09) was starting her own run to superstardom.
Did it guarantee her position as an all-timer?
Very sadly, not so.
Far-far-far sadder yet, was Marianne Dickerson’s passing , in mid-October 2015, at just 54.
From the podium of Helsinki, she’d turned her focus in other directions.
Marianne Dickerson was a gifted lady, a top scholar as well as a brilliant athlete. She’d gained
a bachelor’s degree in engineeering with honors from the University of Illinois, then a master’s in industrial engineering from the University of Michigan, and next an advanced degree from Harvard Business School.
And she put all those academic achievements to work as a management consultant, in an array of challenging “real world” assignments.
Between Dickerson in 1983 and Cragg in 2017, just two seventh-place finishes (Nancy Ditz in 1987; Linda Somers in 1995) and one eighth (Kim Jones in 1993) represented the high points of American women’s achievement in the Worlds marathon.
So there was vast applause, understandably, for Cragg’s run into the history books this first Sunday of the 16th Worlds. It was all decided in the 385 yards after the 26th mile.
As the gold was going to Bahrain’s Rose Chelimo (in 2:27:11), Kenya’s Edna Kiplagat (the 2011 and 2013 Worlds champion) had barely enough to outsprint Cragg. Both were credited with 2:27:18 clockings. And fourth-placer Flomena Daniel of Kenya (running 2:27:21) was right on their heels.
Serena Burla (2:29:37) ran 11th and Lindsay Flanagan (2:39:47) 37th for USA in the 92-runner field.
Cragg explained it all in the mixed zone of the race that was staged as a four-lapper through the heart of London and finished at Tower Bridge.
“I still can’t believe it,” Cragg said.
“Every medalist – past and present – I’ve always really looked up to and hold them above me, so it feels crazy to be in that group now.
“My coach (Jerry Schumacher) has been putting it my head that this is a potential medal and something I can do. He is amazing. After Rio last year when we were walking to watch the track events, he started putting it in my head and I thought ‘I want to get this down, this is something I want to do.’
“I gave up (the) Boston [Marathon] to solely focus on this for the year. I believed in him and what he thought I was capable of. I knew it could be a great race for me.
“I had to dig in deep but to achieve this feels special.”
At least nine were still in contention past midway but it became a four-runner duel for the top spots by the 35K mark.
Still in the hunt were Chelimo, Kiplagat, Daniel….and America’s Cragg.
Cragg (formerly Amy Hastings, and married to former U. of Arkansas distance great Alistair Cragg, whose own roots stretch back to Ireland and South Africa) duked it out for the 3 and 4 positions over the final few K’s but the decision race went to Cragg with her closing sprint speed.
Kiplagat had reached the finish line just barely ahead.
For the American star, it was a brilliant afternoon of running.
Marianne Dickerson – rumored to be “looking down” on all this with a
marathon-sized smile – would surely have said “truly well done, Amy; truly well done.”