Veteran of the inaugural women’s Olympic marathon in 1984 runs British over-70 age group best and quicker than the official world W70 record at Dorney Lake
Yuko Gordon already has a claim for fame in world women’s marathon running. She took part in the first-ever Olympic women’s marathon 37 years ago and she also ran in the inaugural World Championships in Helsinki in 1983 – on both occasions representing Hong Kong.
However, her run in Dorney – near Windsor in England – last Saturday (April 3), which went unnoticed initially, could be considered even more significant.
With 3:29:01 the 70-year-old took six minutes off of arguably Britain’s greatest masters runner Angela Copson’s national record of 3:35:11 set in London in 2017.
In good temperatures (6C and not too windy) she ran a steady race, passing halfway in 1:43:07 and only slowing slightly on the second half using her economical stride on the flat lapped course around the Olympic lake.
It might even be a world masters record.
The current listed mark on the World Masters Association website is 3:35:29 by German Helga Miketta in Essen in 2013. However, American Jeannie Rice ran 3:27:50 in Chicago in 2018 and ran 3:28:46 in Berlin in 2019 (with a 3:24:48 chip time) but neither of these marks have been ratified and now presumably never will be.
In Los Angeles, Gordon finished 34th – one place lower than at Dorney – in a time of 2:46:12 and she was a similar 35th in Helsinki in 1983 in 2:48:51.
She also had international track experience, although it clearly was not her forte as she ran in the 1982 Commonwealth Games 3000m at Brisbane with a time of 10:24.50 in 15th and last place – a performance which saw her lapped by the winner Anne Audain (8:45.53) and AW’s own Wendy Sly (8:48.47).
Her all-time bests are listed on the Power of 10 website as 76:02 for the half-marathon in 1985 and 2:38:32 in 1987 with both marks set in Hong Kong.
She re-emerged in British results in 2006 with a half-marathon of 1:40:55 but then not until the 2012-2014 seasons when now emerged fully in the British scene she won the W60 age-group in all nine of her Three Counties Cross-Country Leagues.
In 2014 she ran 45:00 for 10km and 99:00 for the half-marathon though that latter mark only ranked her 13th in the UK in her age group.
In 2016, she moved into the W65 category and started to reach national prominence courtesy of a 21:01 5km and she also took the bronze medal in the British Masters Cross-Country behind world champions Copson (24:31) and Ros Tabor (25:43) in 25:52 but one place up on another Olympian Penny Forse (27:11).
The following year she ran for England in the Masters International at Derry and was fifth in the winning England team in 29:23 as Copson (28:41) just beat Tabor (28:42).
That year she did beat Tabor to win the BMAF 10km road title at Gravesend in 45:19 and after a long break from marathons she ran 4:12:05 in the tough Bexhill event.
In 2018 she went even better as she won London in her age group in 3:39:07 and won the W65 category at Lisbon in 3:24:41 but she also had her greatest ever victory as she won the British Masters International cross-country at Swansea and defeated W70 winner Copson for good measure.
In 2019 she ran 3:19:37 at Berlin to rank third-all time in the UK W65 lists and was only few minutes down on Copson’s UK record which tends to suggest that she could go a lot quicker than she did at Dorney Lake as she did not run any marathons in 2020 and like most participants was short of race fitness.
Her run in Berlin was a world age-68 record and made her the oldest ever woman to break 3:20 for the marathon.
Could the Fairlands Valley Spartan be the first W70 to better 3:20 for the marathon later this year?