Alberto Salazar

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Alberto Salazar
Salazar Eugene 08.JPG
Salazar in 2008
Personal information
Nationality American
Born (1958-08-07) August 7, 1958 (age 56)
Havana, Cuba
Sport Track, Long-distance running
Event(s) 5000 meters, 10,000 meters, Marathon
College team Oregon
Achievements and titles
Personal best(s) 5000 meters: 13:11.26[1]
10,000 meters: 27:25.61[1]
Marathon: 2:08:13[1]

Alberto Salazar (born August 7, 1958) is an American track coach and former world-class long-distance runner. Born in Cuba, Salazar emigrated to the United States as a child with his family. They moved to Wayland, Massachusetts, where Salazar competed in track and field in high school. Salazar is best known for his performances in the New York City Marathon in the early 1980s and his 1982 Boston Marathon victory known as "Duel in the Sun." He held American track records of 13:11.93 for 5,000 m (July 6, 1982 – Stockholm) and 27:25.61 for 10,000 m – (June 26, 1982 – Oslo).

Salazar currently is the head coach of the Nike Oregon Project in Portland, Oregon. He won the IAAF Coaching Achievement Award in 2013 during a ceremony hosted by the International Athletics Foundation in Monaco.

Running career[edit]

High school[edit]

Salazar started as a high school standout from Wayland, Massachusetts. He was the state cross country champion in 1975 and trained wıth the well known Greater Boston Track Club (whose members ıncluded the likes of Bill Rodgers, Randy Thomas, and Greg Meyer) where he was given the nickname of "the rookie".


From there he went to the University of Oregon where he won numerous All American honors, was a member of the 1977 NCAA cross country championship team, and won the individual NCAA cross country championship in 1978. Salazar won the 1978 NCAA national cross country championship in cold, snowy conditions, handing Track & Field News Athlete of the Year Henry Rono one of his few losses of the year. He finished 2nd to Rono in memorable duel at the 1979 NCAA national cross country championships at Lehigh University, in which Rono (28:19) and Salazar (28:28) ran the 3rd and 5th fastest 10,000 meter cross country times in NCAA championship history. Neither time has been matched in over three decades of NCAA cross country competition since then. After that, he finished third in the Olympic Trials 10,000 meter race in 28:10.42[2] to make the 1980 Olympic team (that didn't compete in the Olympics in Moscow due to the U.S. boycott), and broke the American indoor 5,000 meter record in February, 1981 at the Millrose Games in New York (his 13:22.6 beating the old AR by nearly 20 seconds as he finished second behind Suleiman Nyambui, who broke the indoor world record with a 13:20.4). Salazar and Rodgers had a legendary duel at the Gurnet Classic Beach Run in Duxbury during the 1970s. At the 1978 Falmouth Road Race after fading to 10th place, he collapsed at the finish with a temperature of 107 degrees Fahrenheit (41.7 °C) and was read his last rites prematurely.[3][4]


From 1980 through 1982, Salazar won three consecutive New York City Marathons. His first-ever marathon, the 1980 New York City race, resulted in a 2:09:41 win, at the time the fastest American debut and the second-fastest time recorded by a U.S. runner (behind Bill Rodgers' 2:09:27 at Boston in 1979). In 1981, Salazar set an apparent world record at the New York City Marathon of 2:08:13, surpassing the 12-year-old mark of 2:08:33 set by Australian Derek Clayton in 1969 in Antwerp, Belgium. However, the course was found on re-measurement to be about 148 meters short of the 42.195 kilometre (26 miles, 385 yards) distance. This is equivalent to about 27 seconds.

In 1982 he won his first and only Boston Marathon after the famous "Duel in the Sun" with Dick Beardsley. Salazar won the race in an exciting sprint finish and collapsed at the end before being taken to an emergency room and given 6 liters of water intravenously because he had not drunk during the race.[5] Salazar ended the year ranked #1 in the world in the marathon by Track & Field News magazine for his wins in Boston and New York, #1 in the their North American Road Rankings for his American 10K road record win of 28:04 at the Orange Bowl 10K and his course record of 31:53 at the highly competitive Falmouth 7.1-mile (11.4 km) road race (his second win and course record there), #8 in the world (and #1 American with an AR of 13:11.93) in the 5,000 meters, and #2 in the world in the 10,000 meters, with three second place finishes at Eugene (27:30.0), at Oslo in an American Record of 27:25.61, and at Paris (27:29.06).

Salazar enjoyed success in cross country competition, earning several All American honors in collegiate and post-collegiate national championships. Salazar was also the U.S. national cross country champion in 1979. He fared well at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships, finishing second in 1982 and fourth in 1983. His silver medal in 1982 marks the last time an American male reached the podium in World Cross Country.

In addition to a fourth place finish (only one second behind the top three placers) at the 1983 world cross country championships, Salazar twice broke the American 10 km road record in 1983 with efforts of 28:02 and 28:01 at the Americas 10 km and Continental Homes 10 km respectively. He finished as the top ranker in Track & Field News magazine's North American Road Rankings for 1983. He was also the 10,000 meter national track champion in 1983, pulling away from Craig Virgin in the last straightaway at the U.S. championships in Indiana in June to win his second such title (the first coming in 1981). However, he finished last in the 10,000 meters at the World Track & Field Championships while suffering from bronchitis and was beaten for the first time in the marathon, finishing fifth at the Rotterdam marathon in April (2:10:08) and then fifth again at Fukuoka in December (2:09:21). (The latter time would have been the American Record for the next seventeen years except that there was a problem in filing the paperwork with the authorities.)

In 1984, after a 2nd place finish by Salazar in the 10,000 meters at the Mt. SAC Relays in 27:45.5, he finished 2nd at the men's Olympic marathon trials (2:11:44) to become a member of the United States' Olympic Marathon Team, along with Pete Pfitzinger and John Tuttle. He was considered a favorite to win or medal in the Olympics, but finished a disappointing fifteenth in 2:14:19 under the hot Los Angeles sun.

Salazar's competitive decline is often attributed to a reported blow-out after the 1982 Boston Marathon (his famous "Duel in the Sun" with Dick Beardsley), after which his athletic performance gradually declined to the point at which he could barely jog. Salazar recounts falling into a "more-is-better" mindset which led him to reason that if 120 miles per week yielded a certain level of success, then 180 miles (290 km) or even 200 miles (320 km) would bring even better results. This intense and grueling regimen of such extremely long distances ultimately led to a breakdown of his immune system, and he found himself frequently sick, injured, and otherwise unable to continue training. The downward spiral of his marathon career culminated in his disappointing fifteenth place at the 1984 Summer Olympics. The story of Salazar's 1982 win at the Boston Marathon and his subsequent competitive decline is told in Duel in the Sun, a book by John Brant.

After several years of inactivity, in 1994 Salazar won the prestigious 90 km (56 mi) Comrades Marathon. Salazar stated that Fluoxetine (Prozac) played a role in motivating him to succeed in professional running again; the actual effect of the drug on his performance remains controversial.

Post-competitive career[edit]

Currently employed by Nike, Salazar has stayed connected with the sport as coach of the Nike Oregon Project. Aimed at producing Olympic-caliber athletes, project members who have trained under Salazar's tutelage include Alan Webb, Mo Farah, Galen Rupp, Adam Goucher, Kara Goucher, Dan Browne, Amy Yoder Begley, and Dathan Ritzenhein. His connection to Oregon and Oregon Sports gave him the distinction of being inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame in 1997. In August 2012 at the London Summer Olympics, two of Salazar's Olympic-caliber athletes, Mo Farah and Galen Rupp, finished 1st and 2nd respectively in the 10,000 m; Mo Farah also went to win gold in the 5,000 m, becoming the first British double Olympian in long distance.[6]

Salazar ran in the ING New York Marathon in 2006, at age 48, serving as a pacesetter for cyclist Lance Armstrong, who was attempting his first marathon. Salazar was primarily responsible for guiding Armstrong for the first 10 miles (16 km) of the race, while Joan Benoit Samuelson oversaw the next 10 miles (16 km), and Hicham El Guerrouj the final 6.2 miles (10.0 km). With their help, Armstrong met his goal of completing the race under three hours, finishing in 2:59:36.

On Saturday, June 30, 2007, he experienced a serious "heart event" and was rushed to the hospital.[4] On Sunday, July 1 he was reported to be "groggy" by his family and remained listed in serious condition.[7] On July 2, doctors upgraded his condition from "serious" to "fair". They also confirmed it was a heart attack.[8] He was released from hospital on July 8.[9]

On June 26, 2008, on the eve of the US Olympic trials, Salazar was taken to the hospital again, for dehydration and high blood pressure. He attributes this partially to the stress of coaching five Olympic-hopeful athletes. Afterwards, doctors adjusted his medications, but do not believe that there was any further injury to the heart. He returned to the track to coach his athletes through the trials.[10]

In 2012, Salazar published the autobiography 14 Minutes: A Running Legend's Life and Death and Life along with John Brant. The book tracks Salazar's story from his family's roots in Cuba, his adolescence in Massachusetts, through his running career to present day's coaching efforts culminating in his 14-minute long heart stop in 2007.

Competition record[edit]


Year Competition Venue Position Notes
Representing the  United States
1980 New York City Marathon New York, United States 1st 2:09:41
1981 New York City Marathon New York, United States 1st 2:08:13 [11]
1982 Boston Marathon Boston, United States 1st 2:08:52
New York City Marathon New York, United States 1st 2:09:29

Rotterdam Marathon 5th 2:10:08

1984 US Olympic Trials Buffalo, United States 2nd 2:11:44[12]
Olympic Games Los Angeles, California 15th 2:14:19

Track and Field[edit]

Year Competition Venue Position Event Notes
Representing the  United States
1980 US Olympic Trials Walnut, California 3rd 10,000 m 28:10.42[13]
1981 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships Sacramento, California 1st 10,000 m 28:39.33[14]
1983 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships Indianapolis, Indiana 1st 10,000 m 28:11.64[14]

Cross country[edit]

Year Competition Venue Position Notes
Representing the  United States
1979 USA Cross Country Championships &
1st &
1982 USA Cross Country Trials Pocatello, Idaho 1st 36:52.4
World Cross Country Championships Rome, Italy 2nd 33:44.8
1983 USA Cross Country Trials Edwardsville, Illinois 1st 36:34
World Cross Country Championships Gateshead, England 4th 36:53

NCAA cross country[edit]

Year Competition Venue Position Notes
Representing Oregon
1977 NCAA Cross Country Championships Pullman, Washington 9th 29:20.8
1978 NCAA Cross Country Championships Madison, Wisconsin 1st 29:29.7[15]
1979 NCAA Cross Country Championships Bethlehem, Pennsylvania 2nd 28:37.4

See also[edit]


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]