Going a Lot Longer, a Lot Faster : Griffith Joyner Might Try a Run at Marathon Record

Can FloJo go the distance?

This might be the most popular question in the running world when Florence Griffith Joyner, the recently retired world record-holder in the women’s 100- and 200-meter dash, lines up for her soon-to-be-latest venture:

The marathon.

The marathon?


According to her husband, Al Joyner, FloJo not only has her sights on running the 26.2-mile distance, but running it a full three minutes faster than any woman in history.

“She’s been buying books on how to run the marathon and how to train for it, and she has been asking distance runners about it,” Joyner told Reuters last week.

“She is really sincere. A lot of people will laugh about this, but you don’t laugh at Florence Griffith Joyner.

“If she comes back (out of retirement), it’s going to be the marathon. . . . And if she does it in 1991, she says she’ll go for the Olympic team in 1992.

“She thinks she can run 2:18.”

Ingrid Kristiansen of Norway holds the world record at 2 hours 21 minutes 6 seconds.

Although many in the running community might snicker at such a goal, Griffith Joyner’s agent, Gordin Baskin, says she is quite serious.

FloJo herself wouldn’t say. Baskin said Griffth Joyner isn’t doing interviews.

“One of her secrets of her ability to win and do the times she did (in the sprints) was that she would run five to six miles a day in training,” Baskin said. “She did long-distance running, which she happened to enjoy. The marathon is long distance and she enjoys running long distances. . . . It’s something that isn’t a chore to her.”

But a 2:18?

“I didn’t know how serious she was when she said that,” Baskin said. “I said, ‘Geez, you know I d settle for a 2:21.’ I was sort of playing with her.”

Many think Griffith Joyner, a Newport Beach resident, will be disappointed, not only in her hopes of running a world record, but of trying to become a world-class marathoner.

“I heard about that at (The Athletic Congress championships at Houston) last week,” Track & Field News editor Jon Hendershott said. “I mean, I can’t but scoff. I can’t think of anyone who’s done anything like that.

“It’s just so counteractive to what she’s done previously in her career. I don’t want to put her down, maybe she can set her mind to it and go bananas. I just wonder if she really understands what she’s saying.

“Maybe she’s super serious, I just don’t know. . . . I think whatever she does is admirable, (and) I wouldn’t put it past her. Maybe this is what she needs to hear, that she can’t do it. . . . Watch us dummies say she can’t do it and then she’ll go run 2:18.”

Said UCLA distance Coach Bob Messina: “There’s not a whole lot of things I’d put past Florence. She’s not afraid of training. In the weight room, she’s really something else. . . . But it’s just a whole ‘nother ballgame. I think to have her finish one in under three hours, that would be a fine accomplishment.”

Said Tom Telez, coach of Carl Lewis: “I don’t know what she’s driving at.”

According to Fred Lebow, director of the New York City Marathon, FloJo has plans to make her marathon debut in the 1990 race there.

“My only concern is that every time she comes to New York, she’s just mauled by adults acting like little teeny-boppers,” Lebow said. “The city will have to beef up security and (strengthen) the barriers when she runs by.

“But it would be something I’d love to see. . . . I mean, I don’t know if she can do a 2:18 marathon, but just the concept is intriguing.”

FloJo Pace: To run a 2:18 marathon, Griffith Joyner would have to average 5 minutes 16.2 seconds per mile.

Breaking that down further, FloJo, who holds the world record in the 100 meters at 10.49 seconds, would have to average 19.8 seconds for each 100 meters.

The marathon is made up of approximately 422 100-meter segments.

If Griffith Joyner could maintain her world-record 100-meter pace for the entire 26.2-mile distance, she would finish the race in 1:13.8.

Track Trauma: San Diego State, trying to overcome athletic department budget problems, dropped its track and field program Tuesday, leaving several Orange County athletes in limbo.

Although SDSU Athletic Director Fred Miller said the school will honor all track scholarships and grants next year if the athletes choose to remain, some athletes have no intention of staying where they cannot compete.

Sophomore distance runner Dan Cash, who graduated from Westminster High School in 1987, said he was shocked to learn the program was being dropped, but he is not waiting around to see what happens next. (Under National Collegiate Athletic Assn. rules, an athlete transferring from a cancelled program will be permitted to compete immediately).

“At this point in time, I think it’s best just to get out of here,” Cash said. “I’m looking at UCLA, maybe Cal State L.A. . . .

“I didn’t believe this was happening at first. The weird thing about it is that they had just put in a new track, gave us new equipment, a new high jump pit and pole vault pit. It seemed like we were really going somewhere.”

Other county athletes who were in SDSU’s track and field program include triple jumper Gail Ames of Orange, distance runner Mitch Brown of Newport Beach, shotput and discus thrower Richard Brown of Mission Viejo, hurdler Frank Burrel of Mission Viejo and Cary Evans of Irvine, who placed fourth as a freshman this year in the Western Athletic Conference decathlon.

SDSU is the fourth major university in two years to drop its track and field program. San Jose State dropped its program in May, 1988, and Oregon State and Northwestern followed a month later.

Knock on Wood: At UC Irvine, track Coach Vince O’Boyle said he cringed when he heard the news about SDSU. And although O’Boyle says it would be unlikely the same thing could happen at Irvine, it still makes him a little nervous.

“You hear something like this and you say ‘ Crimany , are we going to be next?’ Maybe I’m being unrealistic, but I think Irvine has the kind of track/student athlete here that if we had to cut back, we could do that. We’ve been successful before (without much funding). But to totally cut the program off, it would really hurt. I don’t think Irvine would do that, it has a human side to it.

“The people that are affected the most are the kids. It’s just not fair to them. I mean when do we really start thinking about them?”

Race Schedule:

Saturday: Lomita Founders Day 5 and 10K, Lomita City Hall, 8 a.m.

Century City 5 and 10K, Century City, 7:30 a.m. For more information, (213) 553-0731.

YMCA Breakers 10 mile and 5K, Mission Beach, San Diego. For more information, (619) 232-7451.

Sunday: Legg Lake Good Morning 5K, El Monte. For more information, (213) 949-0394.

Oceanside Firecracker 10K and 2 mile, Oceanside Harbor, 5:30 p.m. For more information, (619) 272-8316.

Information on upcoming Orange County running evens and county runners with noteworthy accomplishments should be addressed to Barbie Ludovise, Los Angeles Times Orange County Edition, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, Calif. 92626.