On August 10, 1997, the Spanish Marathon made history in the cradle of the legendary distance, along the route that runs between Marathon and Athens and which Philippides ran so many years ago. In the best possible scenario, Abel Anton and Martin Fizz took the top two positions on the podium and Spain also won the World Team Cup at the sixth edition of the World Athletics Championships. A dreamy morning for Soriano, who was running the third marathon of his life and who two years later would repeat the gold in Seville in front of the enthusiastic stands of La Cartuja.
Chema Martinez: And it’s been 25 years.
Abel Anton: Very quickly. Atenas I prepared it at home in Soria. I knew it was very difficult, twenty or so kilometers up the pass, so I went over quite a few hills because I knew I had to train it. When you’re training for a marathon four months before, you’re already visualizing it and thinking about everything you’re going to do.
And how did you imagine it?
Winning. I had two marathons in Berlin and Korea and I won them and I told myself I have to win this one too. I knew I had an opponent who was at home [Martín Fiz había sido campeón mundial dos años antes en Gotemburgo] and I was favorite to win, so I said: “It’s very easy for me, I have to follow the best”. It was very clear to me.
But the heat, the humidity, other rivals… Didn’t you think about that?
The tactic was clear. The weather was unknown because we left at 29ºC and arrived at 35ºC and with considerable humidity [48% en la salida]but we have participated in thousands of races in thousands of places and it has to be practiced with the water, such…
How do you remember the first kilometers?
The pace was easy, 3:10-3:15 per kilometer, used to 3:00. And at 10 kilometers I remember that an African in front of me took the bottle from me, I took it from him and scolded him very carefully. They didn’t care then, they didn’t prepare so much for these competitions. I think we beat them because they didn’t really get into hydration, they didn’t really understand that in a race with these temperatures hydration is essential.
Around km 15, two Africans picked up the pace. How did you survive it?
Very calm because I knew my opponent was behind. You have to know the rhythms and if those who change go 3 min/km they won’t last long. You had to regulate a lot in this marathon. The first 10 kilometers are a straight line and then a hill with turns until kilometer 32. I had the opportunity to run the last kilometers in 2:40 or 2:45, and a marathon runner who gave it his all will not make it to that swing.
And before half-time, Fabian Roncero left, and then Fiz.
Fabian is very impulsive, he gets nervous. I knew we had to follow Martin and when he changed I was his shadow. He knew very well that uphill he could leave me because it was better, but that on flat or downhill I was better, coming from the track and having more pace. It was clear to me that we had to endure the climb, and in the last meters I was suffering. If it had gone on a bit longer I would have stayed, but once the descent started we both knew I was going to win. Martin was five kilometers away waiting for the change.
And he didn’t ask you for relief?
He told me to shoot a little, that Moneghetti was coming from behind, and I said to him, “Oh, if he comes for more than a minute.” You have to use the best tactics to win and this was it.
And then the entrance to the Panathenaic Stadium.
You go to Athens and you know it’s the natural course of the marathon, it’s not the same as running in Japan. Leaving the marathon and arriving in Athens, where Pheidippides is running, is special. Just like the win at home in Sevilla.
And now, on the way to 60 years old, how are you?
At the best time. I continue to run, which I enjoy the most. I need it and I can do it because it doesn’t hurt at all.
It’s weird with all the miles you’ve been doing.
When I was elite I did 300,000 kilometers and after I retired I will have done 100,000. He did 4,000 a year. If he prepares a marathon, he will still pass 5000.
What was your best test?
Between 3000 and 5000, although he combined it with 1500m. At 5000m I had opportunities to improve that 13:15, but at 10000m I did little. I made my mark in the semi-final in Gothenburg.
It is true that you could have cost more because he was 2:20 in the 1000 meters.
I have always prepared championships, I have never looked for big brands. In the 2:07 marathon in London it is because I was going to win the race. In 1994, you already achieved an achievement at the European Championships in Helsinki with gold in the 10,000m and bronze in the 5,000m. It’s scandalous because you have to do three races in six days. At 10,000 the tactic was to run with minimal effort and start from the back.
You were very strategic. Who did you learn it from?
This is the intelligence of each one. I have trained athletes and there are those who know how to run tactically and others who, no matter how much you tell them, don’t know. If your coach tells you to run this way, but in the race the situation changes, you are there.
Which marathon are you staying at?
Berlin is the easiest marathon, although the one I’ve run the most times is London.
How everything changed in the marathon…
It’s another world. Before the record was 2:05h and we ran in 2:07h. Now we run the same or a minute less, and the Africans clocked 2:01 and it is impossible to beat them.
Abel Anton in figures
- Track: 8th 5,000m at Barcelona 92, European 10,000m champion and 5,000m bronze at Helsinki 1994.
- 2h13:16 – Mark with which he won the world gold in Athens 1997.
- 2h07:45 – Marathon personal best achieved in 1998 in London
- 5/11 – Anton won 5 of the 11 marathons he ran, including the two in Athens 97 and Seville 99, which earned him two world titles