Popp Culture

Let's play marathon trivia: What do Oprah, W, and Will Ferrell have in common?

Let's play marathon trivia: What do Oprah, W, and Will Ferrell have in common?

When I ran the Boston Marathon in 2007, I made sure I beat Will Ferrell’s time. The actor known for streaking in the movie Old School ran the same course, fully clothed mind you, in 3:56:12. I also had a better time than a guy dressed as a dairy cow that day. 

So for those of you running the Chevron Houston Marathon on Sunday, here are some other famous time benchmarks: 

• Oprah Winfrey ran a 4:29:15, thereby setting the “Oprah line.”

• P Diddy ran the New York Marathon in 4:14:54 and raised some $2 million dollars for charity. 

• Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong ran his first marathon in 2:59:36 in 2006. That’s just ridiculous. If that wasn’t enough, for his second marathon in 2007, Armstrong shaved 13 minutes off his time to finish in 2:46:43. Again, ridiculous. 

• Former President George W. Bush ran a not-too-shabby 3:44:52 in 1993. Former Vice President Al Gore finished behind Bush not only in 2000, but also in a marathon. He ran a 4:58 in 1988.

• Sarah Palin ran a marathon in 2005 and, unlike her uncompleted term as governor, she actually finished the race in 3:59:36.

If you are thinking you may not beat Oprah’s time tomorrow, whatever you do, don’t pull a Rosie Ruiz. Incredibly, in the 1979 New York City Marathon Ruiz hopped the subway after mile 10 and rode it to Columbus Circle. There she disembarked just in time to stroll through Central Park to finish in 24th place. Not wanting to settle for such a pedestrian finish, she upped her game when she ran Boston the following spring. She bypassed much of the course and shockingly came in first. Since no one saw her on the course, she was exposed as a fraud.

Here are some other marathon tidbits:

Keep up the Pace

At the Houston Marathon last year, both the men’s champ, Deriba Merga, and the women’s champ, Teyba Erkesso, set course records. Their times were 2:07:52 and 2:24:18, respectively. For those of you playing at home, a recent New York Times article put that pace in perspective. To get a feel of what it is like to run like an elite marathoner, the article suggested you go to your gym, get on a treadmill and crank it to the max of 12 miles per hour. Run one mile, and then repeat 25 more times. That’s a five-minute mile pace and that’ll put you probably in the top 10. Good luck with that.

Not everyone can be an elite, of course. And it turns out, according to a 2008 study by Running USA, more and more people don’t care if they’re not elite. They’re just glad to be running. The study found that more runners are taking on the 26.2-mile distance but  they’re doing it at a slower pace. Around 425,000 people participated in a marathon, up from 143,000 people in 1980. But “in 1980, the median finishing time for male runners in United States marathons was 3 hours, 32 minutes, 17 seconds, a pace of about eight minutes per mile. In 2008, the median finishing time was 4:16, a pace of 9:46. For women, that time in 1980 was 4:03:39. Last year, it was 4:43:32.”

We’re all “Born to Run,” but it’s not without risks


Despite the increase in the sport of marathons, many people still believe there is no way they would ever run one. They might be convinced otherwise if they read Born to Run by Christopher McDermott. This fascinating look at the Tamahumara Indians of northern Mexico, who run pretty much barefoot through some of the most rugged terrain on Earth, asserts that our bodies were meant to run. If you don’t want to read the whole book, you can read a synopsis of it here.

Famous Marathon Moments

My good friend Dave Holliday, a 2:35 marathoner and running enthusiast, reminded me of the following defining marathon moments:

1982 Boston Marathon: For two-plus hours of neck-and-neck running, the famous "Duel in the Sun" between Alberto Salazar and Dick Beardsley ranks as one of the most impressive in marathon history. Salazar edged Beardsley by a mere two seconds.
1996 U.S. Olympic Trials: Runner Bob Kempainen threw up six times from mile 22 to the finish en route to winning the race. And he didn’t break stride.
• The 1960 and 1964 Olympics: Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia became the first East African runner to win the Olympic marathon in 1960, and he did it in bare feet. He donned shoes in '64, and won the gold that year as well.
1984 Olympics: American Joan Benoit won the first women’s marathon at the Olympics in 1984. She did it after doing much of her training in a pool due to an injury. 

We wish you the best of luck, runners. And remember, the pride lasts longer than the pain.

News_Steve Popp_Houston Marathon 2010_tidbits_Will Ferrell_streaking_Old School_movie
Will Ferrell was on a wild streak in "Old School"; he ran fully clothed in the Boston marathon
News_Steve Popp_Houston Marathon 2010_tidbits_Oprah Winfrey_marathon
Oprah set the "Oprah line" for others to toe. Photo by Albert Ortega
News_Steve Popp_Houston Marathon 2010_tidbits_George W. Bush_running
Former president George W. Bush clearly beat Al Gore when it came to marathon times. Photo by Darren McCollester/Newmakers
News_Steve Popp_Houston Marathon 2010_tidbits_P Diddy_in red chair
P Diddy raised some $2 million dollars for charity when he ran a marathon.