Benji Durden (born August 28, 1951) is a Boulder, Colorado based coach of elite runners who came to prominence as a distance runner in the early 1980s, at the height of the American running boom. Durden was a member of the titular 1980 Summer Olympics United States marathon team, placing second against what to that point was perhaps the deepest field of American marathoners ever assembled. With a personal record of 2:09:57, Durden recorded 25 sub-2:20 marathons in less than a decade. He ranked among the top ten US marathoners six straight years, reaching seventh in the world in 1982.
Early life and education
Durden ran track in Sacramento, California as a youth, aspiring to become a miler. After moving to Georgia, he attended the University of Georgia, in Athens (UGA), where he ran the mile in 4:15 as a freshman. He graduated from UGA in 1973.
Durden won the inaugural Cooper River Bridge Run, which was shortened to 9,850 meters by authorities after the gun started for the race, in 1978.
A Symbolic Quest for Nothing
In 1980, on a course running from Buffalo, New York, to Niagara Falls, Ontario, Durden finished second in the symbolic US Olympic Trials (the boycott had already been announced by the time the Trials were held in May) against one of the deepest field of American marathoners ever assembled. Durden surged into the lead at the 19 mile mark and built up a ten second advantage over the lead runners until Anthony Sandoval caught him in the 23rd mile. Sandoval pulled away in the 24th mile and went on to win the race. Durden finished second in a time of 2:10:40.3, a personal best by over three minutes.
The race was intended to determine the US Olympic team for the marathon at that summer's Summer Olympics in Moscow, USSR; however, President Carter had ordered the team to sit out the Olympics, and therefore the race amounted to a quest for nothing, as there was no prize for the runners, as would be the case in the quadrennial special race. Durden did however receive one of 461 Congressional Gold Medals created especially for the spurned athletes.
Durden's marathon career debuted at the 1974 Peach Bowl Marathon. After he dropped out, he told friends, "Anyone who runs a marathon is sick."
In 1975, Durden returned to the Peach Bowl Marathon, seeking to break 2:23, the Olympic trials qualifying mark for the 1976 Summer Olympics. He finished in 2:36, well off the qualifying standard. But at the 1976 AAU National Marathon Championship Rice Festival Marathon in Lafayette, Louisiana, he finished second in 2:20:23.
Durden's first marathon win came in 1977, in Columbia, South Carolina (which had a marathon at the time; that race was last run in 2000 as the U. S. Olympic Women's Marathon Trials) in 2:19.04.
Durden lowered his personal bests with impressive races at the 1979 Nike/OTC marathon (2:13:47) and the New York City Marathon (2:13:49), before having his big breakthrough in the 1980 "Olympic Trials" race. His lifetime best of 2:09:57 (4:57/pace per mile) came with his 3rd-place finish in the 1983 Boston Marathon.
Durden continues to run, returning to Huntsville, Alabama (where he had finished his last marathon fourteen years earlier), where he competed in his first marathon as a Grand Masters (50 and older) runner in 2005, finishing in 3:08:34. In December, 2006, he returned to Sacramento where he recorded a time of 3:01:03 at the California International Marathon.
|Representing the United States|
|1982||Houston Marathon||Houston, United States||1st||Marathon||2:11:12|
|1983||World Championships||Helsinki, Finland||39th||Marathon||2:20:38|
- Caroccioli, Tom; Caroccioli, Jerry. Boycott: Stolen Dreams of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games. Highland Park, IL: New Chapter Press. pp. 243–253. ISBN 978-0942257403.
- The marathon was held in late December, and was part of the Peach Bowl festivities. The Atlanta Marathon name was restored in 1981 when it was moved to its present Thanksgiving date.
- Boston.com - 'Meyer, Benoit Score for Massachusetts' (April 18, 1983)
- CopacabanaRunners.net - 'Run Long', Benji Durden (1996)
- Prismnet.com[permanent dead link] - 'The Path to Marathon Success', Benji Durden
- RunningTimes.com - 'Still Running, Still Dreaming... ...Still Benji', John A. Kissane, Running Times (January, 2006)