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|Mark Curp's half-marathon time set a world record 20 years ago that still stands today.|
As a student at Central Missouri in the 1980s, Mark Curp found opportunity and ran with it, literally. Coming from a farming community and a high school without cross country, Curp became a four-time All-America runner at Central Missouri. He achieved even greater running success, however, after graduating from UCM with a bachelor's degree in 1981 and a master's in 1982.
Exactly 20 years ago, Curp won the Philadelphia Distance Run half-marathon and set a world record for the distance. Curp's record of 1 hour and 55 seconds has been surpassed 10 times by athletes from other countries. However, his Philadelphia run is still the fastest ever by an American athlete on a record quality course.
In fact, Curp is the only American to crack the 61-minute barrier, something which has been done 249 times globally since he became the first in 1985.
"That the record still holds is somewhat surprising especially with the number of big runners out there," said Curp, who was featured in the Sept. 15 issue of Race Results Weekly.
Curp didn't have any secret strategy for the race. Earlier that summer he had won the Big 7 Mile in Iowa and he wanted another victory, especially over Michael Musyoki of Kenya, the 15-K world record holder. Curp got to the finish line two seconds ahead of Musyoki. His world record held for five years until Dionicio Ceron of Mexico broke it on the same course in Philadelphia in 1990, running 1:00:46.
In 1993, American Todd Williams broke Curp's time with a run of 1:00.11 at the Tokyo City Half-Marathon, but statisticians ruled the course didn't have sufficient elevation loss for record-setting purposes. So, Curp's record continues to stand.
"I have to say it was my top performance," said Curp, who also owns several UCM track records, including the two-mile and 5,000 and 10,000 meters. Curp lives in Lee's Summit with his wife of 10 years, Terri. He works for American Century Investments as manager of a customer service team. He is the father of five children, ranging in age from 20 years to 9 months.
Both Curp and his younger sister, Darla Curp Moberly, have been inducted into the UCM Athletic Hall of Fame. Darla ran for the Jennies from 1982-1986 and won the 3,000-meter run national title in 1986. Curp never won a national title at UCM but earned nine All-America awards.
Curp said he never intended to set a world record. He said he was with the leaders in the first part but started to fall back less than halfway through. "At the 10-K point, I almost fell off the pack. They got three seconds on me." Knowing he didn't have a strong kick to finish the race, he made his move in the last mile. "It ended up that my last mile was my best of the race."