Now, World Cup mania raises more questions: which footballers have run marathons? And who is the fastest footballer over the classic distance?
TV viewers of this year’s London Marathon will recall that former England striker Michael Owen was among the featured celebrities. Owen finished in a creditable 3:45:43 and apparently raised over £75,000 for his three chosen charities. Perhaps his London Marathon finisher’s medal has pride of place on the Owen mantelpiece beside his 2001 Ballon d’Or.
Going back a few more years, in 2012 The Guardian featured other footballers who had turned to marathons at that time. Not surprisingly, London has proved a popular race for footballers based in Britain. Manchester United striker Dwight Yorke clocked 3:31:56 in 2011, but was beaten that year by the impressive 3:22:36 of Leicester’s Muzzy Izzet. The late Wales international Gary Speed gave a good approximation of his surname when he ran 3:49:22 in the 2012 edition.
Travelling outside Britain, Dutch goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar may have lacked the running experience of his outfield teammates, but he still turned in a time of 4:19:16 at the 2011 New York Marathon. Another Ballon d’Or winner, Pavel Nedved of the Czech Republic, ran the 2012 Prague Marathon in 3:50:02.
One Irish player has a better time than those illustrious names, though. Step forward Kevin Kilbane, the long-serving left-winger who was a regular and dependable presence in the Ireland side of the 2000s. Running in support of Down’s Syndrome charities in the UK and Ireland, Kilbane posted a fine time of 3:14:44 in the 2013 London Marathon.
Kilbane always gave an honest effort in his Irish appearances, and we’ll even forgive him his missed penalty in the 2002 World Cup shootout against Spain.
We had thought our Kevin was the king. But even in our virtual World Cup of footballer marathons Kilbane is thwarted by Spain. A tip of the hat to Garret Cleland in the comments below for pointing us to Barcelona manager and former Spanish international Luis Enrique – who played against Kilbane in that World Cup match in Korea.
Not only can Luis Enrique boast a 3:14:09 from the 2005 New York Marathon (pipping Kilbane’s London result) but he also turned in an agonising 3:00:19 in Amsterdam in 2006, before finally going sub-3 with an excellent 2:58:08 in Florence in 2007. And on top of that, the Spaniard has moved up to ultra distances, completing the 260km Marathon des Sables across the Sahara desert in 2008.
Also pipping Kilbane is former Scotland midfielder Christian Dailly, who finished around eight minutes ahead of him for a time of 3:06:26 in that same 2013 London Marathon.
Hard luck, Kevin. Of course, 110 caps for Ireland, World Cup appearances, a London finisher’s medal and a fine marathon time all pale into insignificance beside Kilbane’s most celebrated performance – this rendition of traditional Irish ballad ‘Ice, Ice, Baby’ among Irish fans at Euro 2012 in Poland. Legend:
Updated 10 June with Luis Enrique’s marathon information, with thanks to Garret Cleland, and Christian Dailly’s marathon time, with thanks to Kevin Kilbane.