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A Run with Khalid Khannouchi

June 5th, 2006

One of the greatest marathoners of all time, Khalid Khannouchi held a special run on Monday June 5th, 2006 at the Southern Miss Gateway on the Longleaf Trace. He signed photographs and gave advice about how to run and train for a marathon. Then he went on a 3 mile group run with anyone who wanted to run.

This was the article published Jun 6, 2006 in the Hattiesburg American from this event.

'Marathon man' enjoys local run
By Christopher Mapp 

If there's one thing long-distance runners don't like to give up, it's time.

But for one of the world's fastest marathoners, he's more than happy to slow down if it means helping the future of his sport.

Khalid Khannouchi, three-time winner of the Chicago Marathon and the first man to break the 2:06 mark in a 26-mile race, met Monday with local running enthusiasts at Longleaf Trace in Hattiesburg.

A New York resident originally from Morocco, Khannouchi ran three miles with more than a dozen adults and high school students, dispensing race strategies and training tips along the way.

Always eager to support the running community, Khannouchi said he was once in the same place as many of the kids who showed up to train with him.

"When you're just starting out it's a big deal to meet great athletes," he said. "This is a great opportunity for me to give something back. I think there is a lot of talent here; they just need some advice."

And advice was what many, like Presbyterian Christian sophomore Brittany Griffis, were after.

"I want to ask him some racing strategies, like how to pace yourself in a really long run," Griffis, 15, said.

Griffis' sister, Amber Griffis, also came out to pound the pavement with two-time world record holder.

"It's kind of intimidating (running with Khannouchi) because he's so good," said Amber Griffis, 18. "You think to yourself, 'Maybe I should run faster?'"

Jim Coll, a marathon athlete and member of the local running club the Pine Belt Pacers, put Khannouchi's stature in perspective.

"He's like the Randy Johnson of the long-distance running world. For these kids, running with Khalid is like getting to take batting practice from the 'Big Unit.'"

Khannouchi's Hattiesburg connection stems from his part ownership in the Soccer Locker/City Runners on U.S. 98.

Owner/manager Yousri Elmejdoubi, who helped organize Monday's Longleaf Trace run, said having Khannouchi on hand to help the kids is an "invaluable" way to promote the sport of running in the area.

"It's really unbelievable," Elmejdoubi said. "This is a chance for these kids to run against the fastest man alive."

While Khannouchi owns a record time (2:05:42) in the Chicago Marathon in 1999 and the record in the London Marathon (2:05:38) in 2002, he has been hampered by injuries the past few years.

After winning both the Chicago and London Marathon in 2002, Khannouchi spent the last three years getting back to full form. Five weeks ago, Khannouchi took fourth place (2:07:04) in this year's London Marathon, what he called "quite an achievement" considering his recent health struggles.

Currently, he is concentrating his efforts on the Chicago Marathon in October.

"I've had a great first half of the season," Khannouchi said. "Now I'm ready for a full recovery. I really feel like things are coming back together, and I hope to make all my fans happy in the upcoming year."

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