Khalid Khannouchi, Marathon Great, Retires

March 28, 2012 at 7:15am EST | by Barbara Huebner

Khalid Khannouchi, a former world-record holder in the marathon who became an American citizen in 2000, has officially retired.

Plagued by foot injuries for the past eight years, the 40-year-old Khannouchi, who splits his time between Ossining, NY, and Colorado, was the superstar of the marathon world in the late 1990s and early 2000s, winning the Chicago Marathon three times between 1997 and 2002. His 2:07:10 victory there in 1997 was at that time the fastest debut marathon in history.

Although he has attempted several comebacks, Khannouchi has been able to race only infrequently over the past few years. His last marathon was in New York City, at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in 2007, and one of his last races at any distance was the NYRR’s UAE Healthy Kidney 10K in 2010.

"I'm proud of myself," Khannouchi told the website in an article posted Tuesday in which his retirement was announced. "I truly want to thank my family, all the people, the fans, my sponsors who really gave me the opportunity. I want to thank them for the time, the great time I had, the support I had, and the great moments in the history of running that I had as they were a part of it."

"Khalid was the dominant marathoner of his generation and ahead of his time," said Mary Wittenberg, president and CEO of New York Road Runners. "Today, we talk about a trend in marathoning as athletes have begun to specialize at the distance. Khalid led the way and showed, with determination, grit, and grace, what it means to specialize at the marathon."

In 1999, while still a citizen of his native Morocco, Khannouchi set his first marathon world record when he ran 2:05:42 to win in Chicago, becoming the first man to go under 2:06:00. He broke his own record, setting the American record in the process, three years later when the won the 2002 London Marathon in 2:05:38 against Haile Gebrselassie and Paul Tergat in what many call the best marathon ever run.

In between, Khannouchi sparked controversy when he gained his American citizenship in May of 2000, just in time to compete in the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, but had to withdraw because of an injury incurred in the London Marathon the month before.

Khannouchi would never compete in the Olympics. Injury again kept him out of the 2004 trials, and in 2007 he finished fourth—just one spot off the 2008 team for the Beijing Games—in the trials hosted in New York. Considering his battles with injury in the preceding years, his finish surprised and impressed many but Khannouchi, on LetsRun, called it the biggest disappointment of his career.

Although he no longer plans to run competitively, Khannouchi is not turning his back on the roads. "I want forever to be a runner, running 20 or 30 miles a week, jog races or whatever it is and have fun," he said.