My name is Dave Urwin and I am the marathon champion of Nauru
Ok, so I can guess what a number of you may be thinking. Of course there will always be a few clever folks around who know exactly what and where Nauru is, but I’m guessing a lot of you are thinking something along the lines of “Nauru?? Where’s that???”
That’s certainly what I thought when I learnt of a man named Karl Hartman running a 3:48:06 marathon there on an unknown date way back in 1968, some fourteen years before I was even born. Little did I know, when I ran my first sub 4 marathon at the New Forest in 2012, I ran through sustained moderate rain and dodged New Forest ponies that thought it was a game to finish in 3:47:38, that I was conquering an island country in Micronesia in the South Pacific. That’s right. Nobody from that nation has run a marathon in less than 3 hours and 48 minutes in over 40 years since the day Karl Hartman smashed it. According to that source of all accurate and trustworthy information, Wikipedia, the island is 21km squared (half a marathon squared) in size, and so I’m guessing running a marathon there involves taking in a fair bit of the nation. It is a small country, and how many people actually run marathons there? I don’t know, but I do know that if I was to gain citizenship then my 3:36:02 at 2013’s North Dorset Village Marathon would be the national record by a colossal twelve minutes. What’s more, I know that performance doesn’t represent the best I am capable of by some way. I have never trained specifically for a marathon; both of my best efforts to date came at a time when I was either training for or recovering from an ultra, and I didn’t go into either knowing I was aiming for the best time I could possibly achieve having trained long and hard to do just that. If I was to really go for it could I set an unassailable Nauru marathon record? Quite possibly not; it’s entirely likely that if somebody was to turn up there and brag about being the new Nauru marathon champion then many of the locals would feel indignation and try and take his crown. Would they? Or would they think “We are from Nauru, we have the threat of potential catastrophes from a rising sea level, the threat of a major unemployment crisis ahead of us and all kinds of things that give us no time for trivialities like marathon running”? Well actually, looking at nations that have levels of national strife almost incomprehensible to us in ‘broken’ Britain, Waheed Karim of Afghanistan managed a 2:28:46 in the USA in 1990, and Sadoun Nasir of Iraq ran a hugely respectable 2:21:54 in Baghdad back in 1982. Couldn’t somebody from Nauru have popped over to London one year to post a sub 3? Surely the London Marathon organisers would have been in favour of giving financial backing to help somebody set a new marathon record for this nation?
So why is it that nobody from Nauru has beaten Karl Hartman’s time? Surely people from there must have run marathons since. It has to be down to the population, right? Well Nauru has a population of around 11-and-a-half-thousand. Ok, so that explains it…..or does it? Russia has a population of around 143 milllion, and yet the fastest time recorded from anyone of Russian origin is Aleksey Sokolov’s 2:09:07 at 2007’s Dublin Marathon, whilst people from the relatively tiny European nations of Belgium, Italy and even Moldova have run faster marathons than that! Yes, Moldova, with its population of 3.6 million, has produced a 2:08 marathoner - Jaroslav Mushinschi did that at Dusseldorf in 2010. I could go on, and I will – China has a population of comfortably over 1 billion, and yet the fastest marathon anyone from there has produced was 2:08:15. This may be 16 seconds faster than the Moldovan effort, but lowly Bahrain, with its population of 1.3 million, has produced an athlete capable of a 2:06:43. Yes, Shumi Dechasa produced that stunning effort in Hamburg, Germany this very year.
So population has nothing to do with it. It must simply be because Nauru doesn’t produce good athletes. Right??.....NONSENSE!!!! Who has run the fastest over 100 metres and 200 metres since records began? Jamaica’s Usain Bolt. Which nation always wins the 4x100 metre relay? Jamaica. That Caribbean island produces sprinters who dominate the world stage…..and yet the fastest marathon run by anyone from that nation is Derrick Adamson’s pedestrian effort of 2:16:39 way back in 1984 over in Philadelphia, USA. If Jamaica produces such incredible athletes then Adamson, with a time like that, must have had time to get in one little fight during the race, after which his mum got scared and told him he was moving with his Auntie and Uncle in Bel Air once he’d finished….well at least that would explain it if the marathon took place in West Philadelphia. 2:16:39??? For that to happen surely he’d have had to do some chilling out, relaxing and maxing all cool and shooting some b-ball upside of the school around mile 24? Or could it just be because a nation producing great athletes doesn’t necessarily equate to there being brilliant marathoners? Well let me ask you, can anyone name me a world-beating Kazakhstani athlete? No? Then how did Nikolay Penzin, from that very nation, run a 2:11:59 in Prague back in 1978? A time that would still be a Jamaican national record by nearly 5 minutes today if anyone from Jamaica was to run it?
So there you have it. The level of national strife, size of the population and athletic pedigree of a nation have absolutely no bearing on the potential for that place to produce excellent marathon runners. What does this prove?
My national marathon record for Nauru, if I was to gain citizenship, would be pretty solid! ; )
The moment I broke the national marathon record of Nauru!
If you wish to order a signed copy of my book ‘Everything Will Work Out in the Long Run’ , which sadly contains no other fascinating facts about national marathon records from around the world, but contains the story of how I battled addictions and their horrific aftermath to become the marathon champion of Nauru, then you can order one from this link……