Australians Pay Homage to Deek in BoulderMay 2002 - Article first appeared in the Daily Camera newspaper.
When Andrew Letherby and Shaun Creighton went out for a training run Wednesday morning, they left the Trident Cafe downtown and ran past Lorraine Moller's house, then looped through Wonderland Hills down Poplar Avenue to a certain townhouse. It did not look much different from other townhomes in the area, but for the two Australians it was a kind of shrine. That is because the house was where Rob de Castella and his family lived for five years on and off when he was the best marathoner in the world. Letherby and Creighton — who both will be racing the Bolder Boulder 10K professional team race on Monday — bowed down in tribute to de Castella in a "Hail the King" gesture, then continued their run. Next they ran by Bolder Boulder co-founder Frank Shorter's house, then hooked up with ex-marathon world record holder Steve Jones. They ran with Jones for a few miles, stopped at his house for some water and conversation, then continued their run.
"We had to visit 'Deek's' house," explained Creighton, the Australian national record holder for 10,000 meters (27:31.92) and the steeplechase (8:16.22). "Deek is someone both Andrew and I look up to, in part because of his two Commonwealth Games marathon gold medals. He was always a hero and idol of mine, and I was lucky that he became a friend and training partner."
Creighton, who will finish up his law degree this fall, is an astute student of his sport and of geography — he can name the capital of nearly every country in the world. According to Creighton, Boulder figures into the history of long-distance running because of the many champions who live, and have lived, in town.
"Deek spent many of his best running years here, and we wanted to pay homage to the great man," said Creighton, 35. "Then obviously Jonsey, as the world record holder (2:08:05 in 1985), is someone we respect and admire. And if you have two Olympic medals like Frank does, that is an incredible career. Then Lorraine had a very long and successful career and finally got her Olympic medal late in her career. Boulder is full of people like that ... Hopefully this year I can get the Commonwealth medal, late in my career."
Many of the elite runners are here because of the Bolder Boulder. Each year the race brings a dozen elite teams or more, and some of those international runners end up liking the area and coming back to train. Creighton is one of them. He won the Pearl Street Mile four years ago, after coming to Boulder to train with U.S. Olympic marathoner Mark Coogan. Now based in Albuquerque, Creighton said the Australians are fielding a strong Bolder Boulder team this year and will be looking to end up in the money, among the first seven teams.
"We have the same team as last year, but we are all fitter," said Creighton. "I think we should all run 20 or 30 seconds faster. Andrew and Kim (Gillard) are both good runners and both are good on the roads. The spots from second through seventh should be really tight, and we are hoping for a top-five finish. If all three of us have a good run, we will be all right."
Like many observers, Creighton pegs the Kenyans as the favorites. "We think the Kenyans are unbeatable, and the Americans are very solid. But the Kenyans are the only ones we are conceding to." Creighton rarely concedes a race to anyone. He is coming off a 7 minute, 49 second clocking over 3,000 meters last weekend against some of the best Kenyans in the world, and a fifth-place finish a week earlier at the Bloomsday 12K. Defending Bolder Boulder champion James Koskei won that race with Bolder teammate Dominic Kirui third.
"I was pretty close to Kirui," said Creighton, "so I am confident I can run with the lead pack here." You might think that doing a two-hour run five days before the Bolder Boulder might be a bit much, but Creighton says he did the same thing in 1996 when he broke Ron Clarke's national record in the 10,000 meters. "It seems to work for me."
One attraction of the Bolder Boulder, said Creighton, is that it allows him to compete for Australia. "You are running for yourself and for your country. That adds a special element."
While he said Koskei remains the favorite for Monday race, Creighton said he believes Alan Culpepper of Superior should place in the top three, and he sees himself in the top 10. "I am just going to see how the race goes. If the pace is reasonable, I will go with the lead group. A lot depends on how the race unfolds and how I am feeling."
Later this summer, Creighton and Letherby will both run the Commonwealth Games marathon in Manchester, England. Creighton will then be going for a fast marathon time at Chicago this fall. Before he leaves Boulder next week, Creighton will try and take one more "Homage Run" through Wonderland Hills past De Castella's former home.
"Deek captured my imagination with his Commonwealth win in 1982," said Creighton. "Marathon running is always something I wanted to do, and Deek ignited that flame. So going by his house is part of the buildup for the Commonwealth Games marathon this year."