It didn’t take long for the marathoners to start dropping away from the pack on a warm, sunny day on the Marathon to Panathinaikon course. By 10km, a long line of runners stretched out from the main pack of 35 or so. Ethiopia’s Turbo Tumo and South Africa’s Lawrence Peu ran at the front, hitting 10km in 31:39.
In the next 5km section, moving steadily uphill, Willy Kolumbo of Congo and Namibia’s Luketz Swartboi, the 1993 runner-up, made a breakaway, passing 15km in 47:52. Defending champion Martin Fiz of Spain ran 11 seconds behind, at the head of the remaining pack of 16. By the one hour mark, that pack had stretched out, with six at the fore. Fiz and teammate Fabian Roncero, a 2:09:43 performer, led. Moments later, Roncero left the pack to chase the two leaders. At 1:05, he caught them; after staying with them for a few minutes, he took the lead.
Roncero passed halfway in 1:07:08, with the main pack just seven seconds back. A kilometre later, the pack absorbed the breakaway runners. Nine remained, including three Spaniards: Fiz, Roncero and Abel Anton.
Brazil’s Vanderlei de Lima broke away at 25km (1:20:01), quickly building up a 10m lead. Two minutes later Fiz took off after de Lima and reeled him in. With Anton following, and dos Santos at a distance, Fiz increased the pace. At the 1:30 point, the three ran together, putting more distance between themselves and the rest. A kilometre later, the Spaniards left dos Santos behind, Fiz hitting 30km in 1:36:04. As the Spaniards continued to widen their lead, Australia’s Steve Moneghetti began to approach dos Santos for third. Farther back, Zebedayo Bayo of Tanzania ran just ahead of the third Spaniard, Roncero.
At 35km, Fiz and Anton (1:51:40) had a 38 second lead over Moneghetti, who had passed dos Santos for the bronze position. Italy’s Danilo Goffi ran another 23 seconds back after working his way up from well behind.
By the two hour mark, Moneghetti appeared to have a solid hold on bronze. At the front, Fiz still led Anton by a step, as he had for the 40 minutes previous. He passed 40km in 2:06:46, having run 15:06 for that downhill 5km segment.
The suspense built in the final stages, as Anton bided his time while Fiz did the pacework. At 2:12:30 in the race, just when Panathinaikon Stadium came into sight, Anton flew past his teammate. He entered the stadium with a healthy lead, waving to the crowd as Fiz vainly tried to respond to the sprint. Anton crossed the finish in 2:13:16, keeping Fiz (2:13:21) from becoming the first man ever to defend a World Championships marathon title. Moneghetti captured the bronze in 2:14:16, and Goffi nabbed 4th, after a speedy second half. The third Spaniard, Roncero, finished 6th in 2:16:53, guaranteeing Spain the World Cup team title.