With Come From Behind Effort, Daniele Meucci Wins European Marathon Title
By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2014 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
ZURICH (17-Aug) – Joining legendary athletes Gelindo Bordin and Stefano Baldini, Daniele Meucci became the third Italian man to win the European Championships Marathon title here today on a glorious morning full of sunshine and good feeling. Swiss spectators mobbed the 5-loop course to see the farewell marathon of reigning European champion, Viktor Roethlin, who ran his retirement race here today at 39 years-old.
“It was wonderful,” Meucci said of the crowds and the atmosphere in central Zurich. He added: “It was very, very beautiful.”
Meucci, 28, who is trained as a robotics engineer, had to rally back after finishing sixth in the 10,000m last Wednesday. He said then that the marathon was his primary goal, and that he didn’t push himself unnecessarily in the track race so that he would be fresh for today. It was all part of the plan set forth by his coach, Massimo Magnani.
“He was ready,” Magnani told Race Results Weekly today, emphasizing his point by tightly clenching his fist.
Meucci‘s winning time –a personal best of 2:11:08– wasn’t memorable, but the race certainly was. After a slow start (15:46 for the first 5 kilometers), all the athletes seemed tentative, with nobody willing to take the lead. Roethlin ran at the front of the lead pack, getting huge cheers around the course, especially each time the race passed the grandstands at the start/finish line.
“Those were special moments for me when all the spectators shouted my name,” Roethlin told European Athletics interviewers. “This is something that goes directly to my heart. It was really amazing for me.”
Before the 10-kilometer mark, Poland’s Marcin Chabowski pushed ahead of the pack, and starting running at a much faster pace. At the 10-K mark, his lead was a modest seven seconds, but the collective wisdom of the pack was not to chase him, and at each checkpoint his lead grew significantly. By the halfway point, the gap was 44 seconds, and it ballooned to 65 seconds by 30-K. Meucci wasn’t worried.
“I look my friend Ruggero (Pertile),” Meucci said of his Italian teammate. “I wait to push, to run faster; we waited to push the right moment.”
At about 30-K, Meucci left the main group, which included Roethlin, Poland’s Yared Shegumo, Russia’s Aleksey Reunkov, Spain’s Javier Guerra, and France’s Abdellatif Meftah, and made the first serious chase to catch Chabowski. At the same time, the Pole was beginning to suffer. He was no longer running 3:04 kilometers as he did through the 25-K point. Just before the 35-K mark, Meucci blew past Chabowski who could be seen rubbing his side with his fingers. About two minutes later, he dropped out.
With a big lead, Meucci engaged his cruise control and got to enjoy the the final kilometers of the race alone where he said he got many supportive cheers from the Swiss crowd. In the final meters to the finish, he grabbed an Italian flag from a spectator, and punched his fist as he broke the finish tape. He immediately dropped to the pavement, and kissed the ground. Later, Meucci credited Bordin, who is the marketing chief for the Italian sports company Diadora, for supporting his athletics career.
“Bordin is my Italian sponsor, Diadora,” Meucci said. “When he wanted a sponsor to me, he believed in me for the marathon.”
There was less drama for the silver and bronze medal positions. Shegumo had gently moved away the rest of the field and ran alone to the finish to take second place in 2:12:00 in his first marathon outside of Poland. The Ethiopian-born athlete, who said he came to Poland in 1999, was originally a track runner (he said his 400m personal best is 47.54). For three years, for financial reasons, he didn’t run and worked three jobs instead in England. He didn’t return to serious training until 2011.
“So, it was a long way today to get a medal,” Shegumo told reporters in English.
Reunkov, the Russian, held on for the bronze medal (2:12:15), and the Spaniard, Guerra, came fourth in 2:12:32. After that, the crowd waited for Roethlin, and cheered wildly when he finished fifth in 2:13:07. Roethlin, who turns 40 in October and who was the bronze medalist at the 2007 IAAF World Championships marathon in Osaka, said he was overwhelmed with emotion.
“The last part of the race was very special for me because I knew that this was it,” Roethlin told Race Results Weekly. “I just took a few seconds for myself with the Swiss flag. I was even crying because it is an unbelievable time that comes to an end. I’m very proud of my whole career.”
PHOTO: Daniele Meucci of Italy (l) with Viktor Roethlin of Switzerland, Yared Shegumo of Poland and Javier Guerra of Spain chasing leader Marcin Chabowski of Poland (not in photo) at the 21st European Championships Marathon in Zurich. Meucci would win in 2:11:08 (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)