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Top Marathoner Wraps Up 20-Year Running Career

Posted October. 22, 2009 07:31,   


A special athlete was invited Sept. 23 to the final game of baseballer Song Jin-woo of the Hanwha Eagles, who was then the oldest player in the domestic league at age 43.

“He is better than I am in sincerity and diligence. We won`t have such a dedicated marathoner for the foreseeable future,” Song said.

This is how Song described the runner in wrapping up his 21-year baseball career. A month later, the runner demonstrated that Song’s assessment was not a mere flattery.

Lee Bong-ju, known as the “people’s marathoner,” won his final marathon yesterday in concluding his 20-year running career. The 39-year-old represented his hometown in South Chungcheong Province at the National Athletic Meet in Daejeon with a time of 2:15:25.

Since running his first full course at the same event in 1990, he has finished 41 marathons, the most by an active runner in the world.

“I will aim to complete the race since it will be the last of my career,” he said. Yet he began to lead from the 30-kilometer point and crossed the finish line two minutes and seven seconds ahead of runner-up Yoo Young-jin, 30.

Lee said, “I had different sentiments in my mind when I hit the finish line. I became sentimental as I realized it was my last run."

Among his 41 marathons, he won the silver medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and placed first in the 2001 Boston Marathon. He won the gold in the 1996 Bangkok and the 2002 Busan Asiad. He set the Korean record of 2:07:20 at the 2000 Tokyo Marathon, a mark that still stands.

Lee, however, selected his final marathon as the most memorable of his career, saying, “I wanted to remain as a proud runner in the eyes of my younger fellow runners, and I`ve realized that hope."

Living up to his reputation as the most senior runner in the Korean marathon community, he gave tips to younger runners. “I felt again in today’s race that younger runners are too conscious of rivals. You should run at your own pace,” he said.

Lee is also known not to cry in public, saying, “I don’t remember weeping since beginning my marathon career.” He burst into tears yesterday, however, and as he wrapped up his 20-year marathon career, his tears appeared beautiful.

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