Does a Golden Era Really Exist?
There have been many astounding performances in the distance events over the past two years - so many that it wouldn't be worth updating the record board until the end of each season. The numbers have been very unusual.
And I'm certain there will be more outdoors.
In 1977 Peg Neppel set world records in the 5K and 10K - the 15:41.68 and 33:15.1 marks that would still be quite competitive today. And that Mary Decker's PR's of 1:56.90, 3:57.12 in the 1500m, 4:16.71 in the mile, and the 3K of 8:25.83 were all in the early 80's.
Not too shabby for those ten years.
Oh, and I seem to remember that in 1965 a junior from Wichita East HS ran a 3:59.0 on cinders, a year later 3:55.3 while still a prep. Heck, he even ran a 3:58.3 at the Kansas HS State Championships - also on cinders, his Adidas Tokyo 64's (see above) costing an outlandish $19.95! Just think, Jim Ryun ran that first mark on a cinder track - 58 years ago.
A few years later high school runners Tim Danielson (1966) and Marty Liquori (1967) broke the four minute mile at high school meets - on cinder tracks and all with nary a pacer. No HS runner repeated these until 35 years later. In 1973, fifteen-year-old Mary Decker ran a 4:40.1 mile, as a junior a 2:02.43 800m. Impressive.
Sure sounds like a Golden Era to me.
So before you claim today's era is the all-time best look at the facts. Mary Decker still has the American record in the mile ('85) and is 3rd on the 3K list - only 0.73 behind Monson's current mark...Mary's marks from thirty years ago. Is there more depth today? Yes, but...
The only fair way to compare runners is to compare them within their decade because things continually change - apples and oranges. Think Encyclopedia Britannica vs Apple Computer. Adidas Tokyo 64's vs Nike ZoomX Vaporfly. Mondo Super X720 track surface vs cinders. Pacing lights vs On your own.
Yes, today's marks are astounding!
This argument is the basis of my fictional novels. For those of you who haven't read my books "A Golden Era" and "A Long Road Ahead," I posit that there is no one golden era - just a series of phenomenal performances in different times with different equipment.
With sub-title of "A Tale of Two Runners" my two books follow the high school and college careers of a father and his son, alternating chapters between the late 60's/early 70's and the son's era in the new millennium - illuminating the different obstacles each generation faced.
You can read the first four chapters for free at my website: taleoftworunners.com
I guarantee you won't be disappointed!