Last week Competitor published a list of the 25 Greatest American Male Marathoners. No surprise that few of Boulder’s own made the list including Benji Durden, Dathan Ritzenhein, Alan Culpepper, Mark Plaatjes, and Frank Shorter.
Listed at #22, is Benji Durden. Many would know Benji and his wife Aimee as they do timing for many races in the area. Many might not know he recorded 25 sub-2:20 marathons in less than a decade and was one of the top ranked marathoners One of his biggest highlights was placing 2nd 1980 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon. Unfortunately the U.S. had already announced its intention to boycott the 1980 Olympics. He has now run over 400 marathoners as a member of the Marathon Maniacs.
Alan Culpepper #19 was the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials Champion in a time of 2:09:41 and tied Alberto Salazar as the top American Marathon Debut. Alan is also one of only a few Americans that has run under 4:00 for the mile and under 2:10 for the Marathon. He opened the running store, Solepepper’s in Louisville (before it was sold to Runners Roost) and recently released his book Run like a Champion. An Olympian’s Approach for Every Runner.
Mark Plaatjes the 1993 World Marathon Champion was ranked #14. Mark runs a successful PT business, is a coach and Co-founded the world famous Boulder Running Company.
Dathan Ritzenhein #12 was a former CU Buff standout and placed 9th in the 2008 Olympic Marathon he also held the American Record in the 5000m.
Topping the list for winning Gold in the 1972 Olympics and then Silver just 4 years later Frank Shorter was instrumental in the beginnings of the running boom in the 1970s and helped start a little race called the Bolder Boulder.
But there is another former marathoner that calls Boulder home that was one of the hardest working runners in his time. Don Janicki, who has served as the Bolder Boulder Pro Athlete Coordinator since 2007, had a long and successful career of racing. Don was a track runner from the University of Arizona with dreams of qualifying for the 5k or 10k in the Olympics. He narrowly missed the qualifying mark in both distances to qualify for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. He was down and considered his running career over until he got a call from the Twin Cities Marathon. They flew him in and put him up in a corner suite at the hotel. The next morning he placed 2nd running 2:12:01 and thought, “I am a marathoner now.”
Because of that invite he was able to extend his running. Since he was a father and husband he quickly realized he could make a career out of it and treated it as such. He moved to Colorado in 1989 and trained with the likes of Steve Jones. Janicki estimates he ran between 35 and 40 marathons in his 13 year career most between the times of 2:12 and 2:10. His only regret was that he didn’t ever break 2:10 but realizes that perhaps if he had pushed a bit harder, he may have ended up injured and no longer able to provide for his family.
Other career highlights:
His career bests on the track included 3:46 for 1,500 meters, 13:44 for 5,000 meters, and 28:27 for 10,000 meters. He had road racing personal bests of 27:58 for 10,000 meters (Deseret News 1986) and 1:03:16 for the half marathon (Citrus Bowl 1985).
Janicki’s racing focus shifted to the marathon, winning the San Diego Marathon in 1987. This was followed by a string of victories, including the Twin Cities Marathon (1989) and the Cleveland Revco Marathon (1993 and 1994). He was a member of the U.S. World Championship Track and Field teams in 1987 and 1996 and a three time U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials competitor. Track & Field News ranked him among America’s top 10 men’s marathoners for 10 years, being in the No. 2 spot in 1986. His career best for the marathon was 2:11:16 at the 1985 America’s Marathon in Chicago. (CO Masters Run).
You may bump into Don at the Boulder Road Runner first mondays or at their Summer Series Track Meets where he often helps time the track events.