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Yiannis Kouros : World 24hr Road Record

Yiannis Kouros : World 24hr Road Record

3 May 1998
The provisional results are as follows:
Yiannis Kouros AUS 290.221km Lukas Jens GER 256.038 Michael Maier GER 253.501 Jean-F. Plateau FRA 226.637 Didier Platon SUI 218.115 Markus Muller GER 214.163 Walter Eberhard GER 213.301 Wolfgang Schwerk GER 212.446 Women Nadezhda Tarasova RUS 213.649 Heike Pawzik GER 188.895 Nidhruvi Zimmerman AUT 186.984 Prafulla Nocker SUI 183.575 Paula Mairer AUT 177.329 Marianna Nagy HUN 170.082 Daniele Appenzeller SUI 157.057

103 runners competing in the race.

Yiannis Kouros arrives in Switzerland tommorrow after his long flight from Australia. People around the globe throughout the world ultra community are eagerly await this fascinating race, when this ultrarunning legend will once more put himself on the line in the pursuit of excellence and even more ultra records.

This race promises to be unique in another way. An ambitious multi-website coverage of the race is planned with South Africa, with its great ultra traditions, playing a crucial role. It is planned that the Runner site's coverage will be linked to sites on other continents, and there is the possibility that some five continents could be involved.

The world ultra community across the globe will be electronic onlookers as the legendary Kouros seeks to emulate his remarkable track performance of 303km/188 miles in a day, on a more demanding road surface.

The Basle 24 Hour - the scene is set.

The Sri Chinmoy 24 Hour road race in Basle, Switzerland is to be held in the pleasant surroundings of the St Jacob Stadion Park. The course is a very flat park path on a one mile loop. On three sides the oblong course is protected by deciduous trees, but is more open on the fourth side.

The course varies in width but there is always room for runners to run two or three abreast. There are two long straights, with a restaurant and toilet block on one of the two short straights. The course is lit at night by small street lamps which are positioned at regular intervals around the course.

There are few buildings in the park, and the course is dominated by the tents of the Sri Chinmoy organisers. As at all Sri Chinmoy races there will be plenty of food available, and a tent for massage. About 100 metres off the course, close to the middle of the oblong enclosed by loop, are former air raid concrete bunkers, designed to withstand a nuclear conflict. These provide dark, quiet and warm sleeping accomodation as well as hot showers.

The Park is a lively place throughout the day. It is a hub of activity , a typical European municipal park. There are always plenty of spectators, and on the adjacent sports fields soccer matches take place during the weekend. Other users of the Park include horse and traps, cyclists and rollerbladers, all of whom are kept away from the coned off course used by the runners. Eleanor Robinson has run in the Basle 24 Hour race on several occasions, and she found it a very pleasant setting for such a race, although in those particular races she found it very hot.

Yiannis has expressed the view that it would be more difficult to run 303km /188 miles on the road than on the track. The vastly experienced British runner Eleanor Robinson felt that big distance could still be expected. She said "Yiannis should be able to run a good distance on that course - it's a good circuit."

The weather forecast for the Basle area this weekend is reasonable. On Saturday the temperatures are forecast to be 10-22 degrees C /50-71 degrees F. It will be cloudy with sunny intervals with a 60% chance of showers. On Sunday the weather is predicted to be much the same 11-22 degrees C /51-71 degrees F cloudy with sunny intervals with again a 60% chance of showers.

Soon the Sri Chinmoy organisers will begin to set up the course ready for the race. The 120 runners from some 50 countries will attempt to get one last night of rest before attempting to defy sleep and exhaustion for a day on the pitiless mile road loop. Among them will be Yiannis Kouros, some thirteen years after his first 24 Hour road run in the New York Sri Chinmoy event, who will be attempting to re-write the record books, and take clear possession of the road 24 hour best, to match his track best he set so decisively last October.

20:30 Friday, 1st May 1998 Basle, Switzerland

Less than seventeen hours to go to the start of the race at noon on Saturday.

The latest information is now available on the runners in the race. There will be more than 130 runners in the race, the second biggest field ever in the Basle event. The runners come from some 15 countries, with a strong contingent from Germany. In addition to Wolfgang Schwerk, the runner currently ranked number 2 on the road alltime list, who is probably not in that sort of shape at present, there is the World No 1 24 Hour performer on the road from 1997 in the race.

Michael Maier of Germany ran 250.999km/155.9 miles in 1996, but then in a a French race in September last year, improved to 254.980km/158.4 miles, the best road mark of the year. The 34 year old Maier has a 100km personal best of 6:54, and has been a member of the German 24 Hour team in the IAU European championships. Another member of that team in the race is Kassian Burster, 33, who has run 236.027km/146.6 miles in 24 hours. Thomas Kabuss is another German entrant with good credentials, running 236.862km/147.1 miles in 1994.

There are a number of other runners with solid 24 hour experience in the event. Miguel Martinez ESP has run 225km/140 miles, Milos Skorpil of the Czech Republic 230km/143 miles and a fair number have covered over 200km/124 miles.

A couple of veterans to look out for are Jacky Frick of France and Aribert Hannappel of Switzerland. Both are now in their late fifties, but at their peak they were formidable performers. Frick has a best of 255km/158.4 miles and Hannappel,244km/151 miles. The dominant runner in the women’s race could be the 45 year old Russian runner, Nadezhda Tarasova, with her main opposition German, Heike Pawzik, 34, who has a best of 201km/125 miles set at Basle. Yiannis Kouros, the entrant I have not yet mentioned, is in good spirits, and seems in good physical shape.

An update on the expected weather conditions . The most recent forecast for the weekend is changeable weather with some sunshine but occasional showers. Temperatures should be around 15 degrees C / 60 degrees F in the afternoon and just below 10 C/50 F at night.

22:00 Friday 1st May 1998 Basle, Switzerland

Yiannis Kouros will obviously be the centre of attention in the forthcoming Sri Chinmoy 24 Hour race at Basle. At this point it might be worthwhile trying to assess his likely strategy, which may give people following the race an idea of what to expect. In his first 24 hour race in 1984, he set off at a strong pace, knocking off 6 minute miles; reaching 50 miles in 5:27:45, 100km in 6:54:43 and 100 miles in 11:46:37. The 200km point was reached in 15:11:48 en route to 177 miles /284.853km in 24 hours. He adopted a similar pacing strategy in setting his first 24 Hour track record at Montauban the following year.

Later in 1985 he had another attempt at improving on his 177 miles, but had to contend with a hurricane. Hurricane Gloria hit the race with 60 mile/100km an hour winds, driving rain and falling branches. Despite the conditions, Kouros reached 100 miles in 11:53:31, and as the skies cleared, was able to summon up the strength to push beyond his previous best to 178 miles/ 286.463km.

However in his more recent 24 hour marks he has been adopting a more even paced approach. In Coburg in 1996, and his early world best last year, he passed the 50 mile points in 5:56:25, and 5:53:43, 100km in 7:22:52 and 7:23:54,and in 12 hours covered 157.6km/97.9 miles and 158.4km/98.4 miles. His 200km splits were 15:32:39 and 15:29:07. His pace was such that the development of his 24 hour races was predictable. Then came Adelaide.

In October at Adelaide he passed the marathon point in 2:59:59, [his first of seven successive marathons in one day!]. and by 50 mile was already up on his usual schedule [5:47:52]. 100km took 7:15:00, 100 miles 11:57:59, and then he picked up the pace yet again to reached the 200km point in his fastest time to date, 15:10:27 150 miles took him just 18:44:45, and 250km came up in 19:28:35, with 300km achieved in 23:43:38.

Which strategy will he choose for the Basle race? Will he run an even paced race, which will still enable him to break the current ratified world road best easily, or will he push hard with the aim of placing another world best out of reach for perhaps a generation?

A clue as to which strategy he may choose may be found in the current world road best performance list. Andy Jones of Canada holds the ratified world bests for 12 hours and 100 miles with 159.749km/99 miles 464 yards, and 12:05:43. The temptation facing Kouros is the chance to tidy up the record books, and take the 12 hour and 100 miles world bests, along with those for the 200km and 24 hours.

Will he yield to temptation, or save those morsels for another day?

07.00 Saturday 2nd May 1998 Basle, Switzerland

The Sri Chinmoy 24 Hour Road Race 2/3 May

Yiannis Kouros came out to the St Jakob Stadion Park in Basle last night. He walked around the loop. He seemed a little nervous, asking many questions of Shashanka Karlen, the race organiser, and the crew of boys who will be helping him during the 24 Hour event.

Information like the location of the toilets, how many runners , the weather forecast, how often the race changes direction etc etc. He seems totally focussed on what he wants to do. He wants every distance timed properly right up to the 300km [Yes, he said he wants it marked out.] Also he wants all the laps sheets to go up beyond 300km!!

He seemed concerned about the camber of the path on one small section - almost imperceptible to everyone else apart from his eagle eye. His understanding and experience of how little things can affect your running especially when you are tired is wonderful. "You definitely have three good timekeepers?" he asked Shashanka. He has the demeanor of someone who has a definite mission to be fulfilled, and he is leaving nothing to chance.

He definitely wants to go for the world records and this time to be able to have them properly verified. Tarit Stott, a qualified course measurer from Britain, is just heading out with his steel tape to check all the intermediate distances.

There is a great atmosphere amongst all the race helpers, some who have come long journeys to be part of the event. As well as Tarit Stott, there are helpers from Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, France, Austria, Italy and Hungary, and of course Switzerland. The Sri Chinmoy Centre places a great emphasis on creating a positive, happy atmosphere - at the lap counting shed, at the Food Tent and the Medical Tent. They know this helps the runners. There will be music groups playing around the 1.675km loop, all through the night as well.

Many of the helpers have come with the attitude that if people can run for 24 Hours, then they can help for 24 hours. There is great expectancy here. Unfortunately it is raining, and Yiannis doesn’t like rain!!

More later….

Tarit Stott, Sri Chinmoy via Andy Milroy IAU Technical Director

11.00 Saturday 2nd May 1998 Basle Switzerland

The last report offered insights into the mind of a great ultra recordbreaker. The fact that Yiannis seemed nervous shows that no matter how many great performances one has set, each new race is a fresh challenge, one that offers only uncertainty, for with certainty there is no challenge, no fear of losing. The pressure on such a runner as Yiannis is immense; his incredible record as a runner leads people to expect the impossible, each and every time. Despite this he confided to Shashanka Karlen that he is driven to seek new challenges, to seek to test himself to the limit.

The report also revealed his attention to detail, which is typical of the great runner. The legendary Wally Hayward of South Africa, running in Britain way back in the 50s, told his handler, the highly experienced Pete Gavuzzi, exactly what drinks he wanted and when. One hand signal meant one drink, another meant a different one. The great Scottish Ultrarunner Don Ritchie has a similar mindset. His pre-race planning is meticulous. Jim Shapiro, the American ultra writer recalled that when he was handling him in the 1979 Flushing Meadow 100 miler, the Scot muttering to him that he would like the sponge handed to him in his right hand, not his left. The focused routine of the great runner avoids any distraction or disruption in cadence or tempo.

Russian multi-winner of the World 100km Challenge Konstantin Santalov when eating out, will ask for a clean plate and transfer the precise amount of food he needs onto that plate, and leaves the rest. Another aspect of his attention to detail is the fact that he will always sit down when he can, and never stands in the sun. Great runners are not just born, their success comes in part from their ability to analysis their races, and to use that knowledge and experience to maximise their abilities, planning to minimise the impact of any potential problems.

12.00 Saturday 2nd May 1998 Basle, Switzerland

The weather had not looked promising during the morning with persistent rain falling relentlessly. Then with 30 minutes to go before the start the rain stopped. Helpers around the course set to with brushes to sweep the water off the pathway.

The usual `organised chaos’ that precedes the start of any ultra with 130 runners carried on regardless.

The start.

With a few minutes to go before the start the area around the start/finish line of the loop swarmed with runners, gently warming up. The smell of liniment and other protective balms lingered around the hundred plus runners as they sought to prepare themselves for the journey to come.

A colourful patchwork of vests was created as the runners formed up at the start, marshaled by the international band of Sri Chinmoy helpers. There was a brief few moments of silence as the runners waited on the start line, enabling everyone, athletes and helpers alike to focus on the tasks ahead.

At the stroke of noon this long, multi-coloured, multi-national crocodile of runners set off , some starting with a brisk walk, others moving at a gentle jog, all perhaps apprehensive of the long hours ahead.

The field was soon stretching out along the straight, as the runners gently eased themselves into the race, and within four or five laps the field was spread around much of the oblong loop, with Yiannis Kouros going straight into the lead.

His first 1.675km lap took 6:57, but he soon settled down to regular laps of between 7:10 and 7:20.

Tarit Stott Sri Chinmoy via Andy Milroy IAU Technical Director

16:00 Saturday 2nd May 1998 Basle, Switzerland

Now that the rain has stopped the running conditions are near ideal.

Yiannis Kouros has begun to establish his expected dominance over the race. He is drinking water and an energy drink alternately every second lap, i.e. every 5km approximately, and was eating slices of banana frequently in the first two hours. Then between the second and third hour he added pieces of chocolate to his food intake. At three hour point he had a two lap lead over the Czech runner, Milos Skorpil , 41.8km/26 miles to 38.5km/24 miles, with the German Michael Maier also on 38.5km. Wolfgang Schwerk was in fourth [36.8km/22.8 miles], along with Bart Knol,a Dutch runner. Then followed the Portuguese runner Agostinho Ferreira , Rolf Fuchs of Switzerland and Asko Sinilaine of Hungary, all on 35.1km/21.8 miles. Then there was a gap of close to a lap before the next runners in a large group on 31.8km.

The Germans Thomas Kabuss and Kassian Burster have chosen a more cautious start, covering 30.1km/18.7 miles and 28.4km/17.6 miles respectively in the first three hours.

Yiannis reached the marathon point in 3:01:07, 1:08 behind his track time at Adelaide, but at this stage in 24 Hour race such figures have little meaning. However, if he intends to match his 303km 24 hour track total, from that point he then had 21 hours to run more than six more marathons at an average of 3½ hours each. That puts the feat that he is aiming to achieve into some kind of perspective.

The Greek-Australian reached the 30 mile mark in 3:28:37, and 50km in 3:36:00 [as compared with 3:24:15 at the 50km point at Adelaide] Tarit Stott and Shashanka Karlen [Sri Chinmoy] via Andy Milroy [IAU Technical Director]

18:00 Saturday 2nd May 1988 Basle, Switzerland

The runners are now 6 hours into the race.. The weather is dry and cloudy, perhaps a little warm by Northern European standards, but to a Greek, it feels cool. There is a warm breeze. Yiannis is slightly apprehensive about the prospect of a cold night ahead, but the temperature are predicted only to drop to around 10/11 degrees C/50 degrees F.

Yiannis has now established a commanding lead, as his relentless, powerful, economical style moves him further and further away from his opponents. [His style evolved in the pressure cooker of the Australian Sydney to Melbourne races. He uses his strength, using the muscles of the upper body with a strong arm movement to drive him forward in almost a rolling gait.]

He reached 50 miles in 5:53:20, which is comparable with his split in his March 1997 World Track best, and by the 6 Hour point had run 81.902km/50.8 miles. In second place is the Dutchman, Wim Knol, with 75km/46.6 miles, and Wolfgang Schwerk of Germany is third with 74.5km/46.2km

The leading woman after 6 hours is Nadezhda Tarasova of Russia with 63km/39 miles, ahead of Prafulla Nocker of Switzerland, with 59km/36.6miles and Nidhruvi Zimmerman of Austria, 58km/36 miles. Tarit Stott is taking careful note of Yiannis’ various strategies in the race which is useful. All too often we have had reports of his incredible feats, but there are few reports of what he eats and drinks and when. He is still keeping to his drinking schedule of drinking an energy drink and then water every alternate lap, so effectively he is drinking them alternately every five kilometres. On the non-drinking lap, and sometimes also on the drinking lap, he is now eating dried fruit, apricots and dates, as well as homemade cookies produced by one of the Sri Chinmoy helpers.

His strategy seems to be to eat little and often, right from the start of a race, an idea which not too many people have tried. However it does accord with the advice of Dave Cooper, the highly experienced British 24 Hour performer who wrote what some people regard as the `Bible' of 24 Hour running in the book `Training for Ultras’; however not even Dave has suggested eating right from the start of the race.

Yiannis also believes in creating the right atmosphere. From tent comes strains of Greek music which he is able to hear right around the oblong loop.

Late update - Yiannis passed the 100km point in 7:21:51 - again on a par with his March 1997 performance, and some six minutes down on his Adelaide run.

22:00 Saturday 2nd May 1988 Basle, Switzerland

It is now 10 hours into the race. Yiannis has slowed slightly. He is feeling the cold and stopped to put on tights two hours ago. His drink regime has changed and he is now drinking coca-cola. At ten hours he had covered 130.7km/81.2 miles which places him about two and half miles down on a schedule to break Andy Jones’12 hour and 100 mile world road bests. [Andy ran close to 84 miles in the first ten hours of that run.] Yiannis has been told of this by the Sri Chinmoy organisers at Basle, so he knows that if he wants to take the 12 hour and 100 mile world road bests he has to pick up the pace.

It is an unusual situation for the famous Greek-Australian to be under this sort of pressure, but then it could be said that the 12 hour and 100 miles are now at the lower end of his ability range. It will be interesting to see how he copes with this challenge in the relatively cold conditions.

In second place in the race is Dutchman Wim Knol still with 119km/73.9 miles, with German Michael Maier in third with 116km/72 miles, Jens Lukas of Germany is now fourth with 109km/67.7 miles, the same distance as his fellow countryman Wolfgang Schwerk. The first woman is still Russia's Nadezhda Tarasova who reached the 100km point in 10:12:25; behind her in second is Marianna Nagy of Hungary with 91km/56.5 miles from Heike Pawzik of Germany with 90km/55.9 miles. Fourth place is held by Paula Mairer of Austria with 88km/54.6 miles.

Tarit Stott [Sri Chinmoy] via Andy Milroy [IAU Technical Director]

04:00 Sunday 3rd May 1988 Basle, Switzerland

Through the dark hours the shape of the race has become clear. Yiannis reached the 150km point in 11:38:55. It was then it really hit him that the 12 hour and 100 mile road best were out of reach, and more importantly to him, that 300km was beyond him in this race.

He went through an hour of depression, when he ran quite slowly by his standards. not really talking to anyone. He covered 154.083km/95.7 miles in 12 hours and reached the 100 miles in 12:33:54. It was then that Tarit and Shashanka talked to him, got him re-focused, this time on the 200km road best, and he came through it.

Tarit has handled Don Ritchie on many occasions, and knows that even the greatest runners need very positive encouragement sometimes. Once he reached the 200km point in 15:57:50, which had FIVE stopped times taken,a new world road best, he was much happier, laughing that it was the 150 mile mark next.

Tarit Stott [Sri Chinmoy via Andy Milroy IAU Technical Director]

08:00 Sunday 3rd May 1988 Basle, Switzerland

The night is now passed and it is a beautiful sunny morning, and promises to be warmer than the opening day of the race.

Dawn broke at 5:30 and by 6 am warmth was beginning to flood through the park, reviving the runners and the race crew.

At 18 hours Yiannis said that his knees were getting sore, but the growing warmth and the closing finish were perhaps good compensation for these problems.

Despite the aching knees , there did not seem to be any difference in his running style since the beginning, he is very composed and looks totally indomitable.

He reached the 150 mile mark and was timed at 19:40:18,an hour outside his time at New York in 1984. However he only ran eight miles in the last two hours in that race, so perhaps he has some time in hand.

The organisers are, in fact, predicting that he will run 290km/180 miles, to surpass his previous unratified world best of 286.463km / 178 miles.

He is still keeping up his drinking and eating regime. Yiannis has said "The body is like a servant, to whom you have to give drinks and food. You have to pay attention to him, otherwise he will not obey. You have a goal and you want to reach the goal, but if you don’t take care of him, you won’t ever reach your goal." He is alternating energy drink and water in the same routine as earlier in the race; the coca-cola taken at one point was almost like a treat, a change. He is also using maple syrup mixed in with some of the drinks.

The Greek music continues to come from his tent, an important part of his whole race strategy.

The situation within the race at the 20 hours point is that Yiannis leads with 245km/152.2 miles, well clear of the German Jens Lukas in second with 216km/134.2 miles, who has taken over second place from Michael Maier.

Maier went through 100 miles in 14:18:39, some 16 minutes ahead of Lukas [14:44:43] but Maier was to lose second place 16 hours into the race. The two men have since been locked in a tight struggle, with only a 1:45 gap between them. Lukas looks the more comfortable, but Maier is still fighting hard to hang on to his fellow countryman.

Behind the two Germans, Frenchman Francois Plateau has covered 196km/121.7 miles, with Wolfgang Schwerk on 185km/114.9 miles. In the women’s race Russian Nadezhda Tarasova , who apparently has run 213km/132.3 miles in 24 Hours previously, has a firm lock on the leading position. She has run 182km/113 miles, well ahead of the German, Heike Pawzik, who has run 160km/ 100 miles. Austrian Nidhruvi Zimmerman is next with 155km/96.3 miles, from Prafulla Nocker of Germany also on the same distance, with another Austrian, Paula Mairer on 149km/ 92.5 miles. Marianna Nagy of Hungary has covered 147km/91.3 miles in 6th.

Late news. Yiannis has gone through 250km in 20:25:47. Tarit Stott [Sri Chinmoy] via Andy Milroy [IAU Technical Director]

12.00 Sunday 3rd May 1998 Basle Switzerland

The race is over. With two hours to go, Shashanka and Tarit told Yiannis he had to speed up if he was going to surpass his 178 miles/286km from New York in 1985. Yiannis was finding it hard, and the pain was getting to him. Tarit told him, "You get to the point where it hurts, you then have to push a little bit more. You are going through `the little bit more’". Yiannis laughed and pushed on, the joke helping him through the next couple of laps.

At the finish he had covered 290.22165km or 290.221km and 65 centimetres. His official distance is 290.221km/180 miles 589 yards. Yiannis was ecstatic at the finish at achieving that distance and thanked Shashanka and Tarit particularly for their support. He had thought before the start that he could achieve 295km/183 miles, but his dream was to crack 300km once more.

300km in 24 Hours was a phenomenal performance. It is not reasonable to expect any athlete, or any human being for that matter, to achieve their masterpiece each time they perform.

Behind Yiannis were some fine performances. Jens Lukas, the German in second place, is an unknown. I have not been able to track down any previous ultra marks by him, but I do not have the 1997 German lists yet. His performance shows a new star has emerged. His 256.038km/159m 166 yards would be quite some debut to the event, being further than last year’s best performance in the world in the event! Third was Michael Maier who ran close to his personal best with 253.501km/157m 912yards. Considering the race wasn’t a championships, the standard was very high.

The women’s race was won by Nadezhda Tarasova with 213.649km/132m1329 yards. In second was Heike Pawzik with 188.895km/117m 658 yards, and third was Nidhruvi Zimmerman with 186.984km/116.1 miles.

We were fortunate to have such an intelligent and perceptive observer at the race as Tarit Stott, better known on the British scene as Adrian Stott. He is very experienced as an ultrarunner, having run over 130 miles/209km in 24 Hours, but he has also other notable credentials. He has been race director for many years of the Edinburgh 100km, which has hosted the British national 100km championships on several occasions. He is also a qualified timekeeper and course measurer.

He is also very experienced as a handler, and has handled Don Ritchie in a number of his major performances, in particular his win in the IAU International 24 Hour championships at Milton Keynes where Don set the ratified world road best that Yiannis just surpassed. Tarit has actually been involved now in FOUR races in which the world 200km best has been broken, and the last three have all been ratified, which is unusual in this event. [It has been somewhat jinked as far as records are concerned.] This augers well for Yiannis’ latest marks.

Yiannis was also perhaps fortunate also to have someone around who is used to handling great ultrarunners. Someone who knew that even the greatest ultra runner sometimes needs firm persuading to do that little bit more!

Tarit Stott [Sri Chinmoy] via Andy Milroy [IAU Technical Director]


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