When Orlando Pizzolato of Italy won the New York City Marathon in 1984, some thought it was a fluke. The day was brutally hot and humid (news reports referred to a “hot fog” that blanketed the city), and many of the top contenders—including defending champion Rod Dixon—wilted.
Though he’d won some Italian road races, Pizzolato finished 15th in New York in 1983. In 1984, he took the lead at halfway and held on despite stopping six times in the final four miles. His 2:14:53 remains the slowest winning time in the history of the five-borough race, but it brought him instant fame. “The first story was the Pope. And then Reagan’s election. And then there was me,” he said of Italian news coverage.
In 1985, Pizzolato proved he was no flash-in-the-pan by scoring a come-from-behind victory in New York over World Cup champion Ahmad Saleh of Djibouti. “No one knew me last year,” he said. “Now everyone’s a friend of mine.”
He went on to win the silver medal in the 1986 European Championships Marathon and to place seventh in the 1987 IAAF World Championships Marathon and 15th in the 1988 Seoul Olympic Marathon. He now owns and operates a company bearing his name that offers running vacations, camps, and consulting, and provides scholarships to athletes ages 16-22.
Career Marathon Highlights
|1984||New York City||2:14:53|
|1985||New York City||2:11:34|