The rest of the world has been running past U.S. marathoners since 1985, the last time an American won in Boston.
Gone are the heady days of the late '70s and early '80s when runners such as Bill Rodgers and Alberto Salazar could be counted on to win the Boston or New York City marathons.Indeed, U.S. runners are facing troubled times.
"We have fewer competitive runners at every level, not just the sub-2:10 folks," U.S. Olympic marathoner Pete Pfitzinger said. "We are simply developing too few marathoners."
In 1983, 21 runners ran the 26.2-mile distance faster than two hours, 10 minutes - four of them from the United States. Last year, 52 runners worldwide broke 2:10, but only one American did it -Jerry Lawson, who finished the Lasalle Banks Chicago Marathon in 2:09:35.
Greg Meyer was the last American man to win the Boston Marathon, finishing in 2:09 in 1983, while Salazar was the last American man to win in New York (2:09:29, 1982). The last American woman to win in Boston was Lisa Weidenbach (2:34:06, 1985), and in New York a U.S. woman hasn't won since Kim Merritt finished in 2:46:14 in 1975.
Experts cite the lack of an organized program for long-distance runners as a main reason why American marathoners can't keep up any more. While some countries such as Japan have state-supported programs, many U.S. run-ners have to work full time while training.
Some top runners are choosing to focus on shorter races. U.S. 1998 indoor 3,000-meter champion Dan Browne said it will be several years before he considers seriously about competing in the marathon.
"I want to see how fast I can get before seeing how far I can go," he said.