Marion Bartoli
New York Road Runners

Marion Bartoli details scary hospitalization before New York City Marathon

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NEW YORK — Marion Bartoli said she didn’t have visitors while hospitalized for weeks this summer due to a mystery virus. Nor a cell phone.

“So tired, I was just not allowed to have any contact,” the retired 2013 Wimbledon champion said. “My heart was beating so slowly.”

Twenty-eight beats per minute at one point.

Bartoli was hospitalized in Italy shortly after covering Wimbledon for TV networks in July. She revealed at the tournament that she had contracted a mystery virus, likely in February while traveling from Australia to New York to India to France. And probably during the India portion.

The Frenchwoman said she spent three weeks in an Italian hospital in July, unable to digest food. Her condition was not improving when she was transferred to a French hospital that specialized in tropical virus infections in early August. She said she spent three weeks there, too.

“It’s either, I’m dying, or somehow I can live through that, and I can find myself a goal that would make it exciting,” Bartoli said.

Bartoli was attached to a pair of IV drips and a feeding machine. She had lost 30 pounds and dipped to 100 pounds overall.

“Battling every single day to survive,” she said.

Doctors determined she had something similar to H1N1 in her blood, plus another virus attacking her muscles and bones.

“I was almost, like, shrinking,” she said.

Bartoli began sketching designs for her own fashion line while all but bedridden (save a 15-minute daily shower). She asked to be allowed a computer to assist with the drawings.

It was granted. Bartoli made further use of it, looking up her old tennis highlights, including her 2013 Wimbledon title. That inspired her.

“I was fit and strong,” Bartoli said. “Sport has been in my life forever. I will always be a sportsperson. I thought, if I can set myself a sports goal, that would maybe help me keep my faith, because at some point I was just losing my faith to be able to recover one day from this.”

Bartoli decided that goal would be the New York City Marathon in three months’ time. She remembered fellow tennis player Caroline Wozniacki gushing about her experience at the five-borough race in 2014.

“I thought, well, if I can run this iconic run, and I can go through that while I’m going through this right now, it can be the best recovery medicine for me,” Bartoli said Wednesday, smiling while telling her story repeatedly to media after a Central Park press conference.

Bartoli eventually regained enough strength to leave the hospital and start readying for the race. Though Bartoli said Wednesday her first training run was Oct. 1, the day before her 32nd birthday, her social media suggests late August.

Regardless, she was adamant that the recovery is not yet finished. Bartoli is happy with her weight but said she can’t eat proteins or starches.

Bartoli said she once ran three marathons in three days as part of a Virgin Media event in 2014. Her goal time for Sunday’s marathon is between 4 hours, 15 minutes and 4 hours, 30 minutes.

“I just want to finish,” she said.

Bartoli said a French TV crew will film her during Sunday’s race and that she expects her doctors to scream at her for going through with the marathon once she returns to France.

“It’s been a rough patch, a very interesting one,” she said. “When I will be able to look back on it and see this whole thing just as a whole nightmare that is gone, I think I will be a happy person.”

MORE: Olympic gold medalist’s unconventional route to NYC Marathon

Brigid Kosgei, Eliud Kipchoge herald new era of fast marathons

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Eliud Kipchoge‘s success in breaking the two-hour mark (final time: 1:59:40) for the marathon on Saturday was expected. He had come close before, and like Alex Honnold‘s unprecedented climb of El Capitan documented in the film Free Solo, the feat required meticulous planning — the ideal mix of pace-setters, course conditions and weather — to steer a once-in-a-lifetime talent to a once-in-a-lifetime accomplishment.

Brigid Kosgei‘s world record at the Chicago Marathon on Sunday was a far greater surprise. Kosgei had run fast times before, but her time of 2:14:04 took more than four minutes off her personal best earlier this year in London, which is typically a faster race than Chicago.

MORE: Chicago Marathon results

The two feats had some common threads. Both runners are Kenyan, no surprise in an event in which the top 100 men’s performances of all time are almost exclusively Kenyan and Ethiopian and the top of the women’s all-time list is similarly homogeneous aside from the presence of British runner Paula Radcliffe, whose time of 2:15:25 had stood as the world record for 16 1/2 years until Sunday. Radcliffe was present in Chicago to greet Kosgei when her record fell.

Kipchoge and Kosgei also wore the same shoes, Nike’s ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT%, thanks to Kosgei’s last-minute decision to switch. Earlier versions of those shoes, like the high-tech swimsuits that were eventually banned from competition or golf equipment whose advertising revels in their alleged illegality,

Both marathoners also had pace-setters running with them. Kipchoge’s effort took the concept to an extreme, with an all-star cast running pieces of the course in front of him, and will not be considered an official world record because it didn’t happen under race conditions. (The Atlantic ran a piece on the Kipchoge run with the headline “The Greatest, Fakest World Record,” though the piece itself was more inquisitive than judgmental.)

MORE: Kipchoge shakes off nerves to break barrier

Kosgei was running in an actual race and has already had her time touted as a world record by the international organizer IAAF, but because she was running in a mixed-gender race, she was able to run behind two hired guns, Geoffrey Pyego and Daniel Limo. They were easily distinguished from men’s race contenders by the singlets with the word “PACE” written in the space where a number or name would usually go.

But in general, marathoners are simply getting faster and faster. Perhaps it’s scientific, with specifically engineered shoes, pace-setters and refined training methods, or perhaps all the tinkering and lab experiments are simply a sign of increased focus on the race that traces its history to the myth of the Greek soldier Pheidippides running such a great distance to herald a momentous military victory before falling over dead.

Of the top 20 women’s times on the IAAF list, only five were run before 2012 — one by Catherine Ndereba, four by Radcliffe. Three were run in 2017, then six in 2018 (three in Berlin) and four this year. All 20 of the fastest men’s times have been posted this decade, eight of them in 2019 alone. Kipchoge, in addition to his unofficial best from this weekend, has the official record of 2:01:39 from the 2018 Berlin Marathon.

The all-time list also reminds us that, for all the controversy over the context of Kipchoge’s run, marathons aren’t really standard, anyway. Some courses are more difficult than others. Some races, like the Boston Marathon, aren’t eligible for record consideration for a variety of technical reasons. (Boston’s hilly course doesn’t lend itself to fast times, anyway — the men’s course record of 2:03:02, set by Geoffrey Mutai in 2011, would rank seventh all-time, but no other time would crack the top 100. The women’s course record is nowhere near the best ever.) London, Berlin and Dubai are the places to go for assaults on the record book.

No matter where the race takes place or how it was run, fast times in the marathon capture the imagination.

Purists may cling to romantic notions of long-haired, bearded runners pounding the Boston or New York pavement in shoes that didn’t even have a basic level of air cushioning. But the modern marathon era is built for speed.

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Danielle Perkins is first U.S. boxer to win world title in 3 years

Danielle Perkins
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Danielle Perkins became the U.S.’ first world champion boxer in this Olympic cycle, taking the heavyweight crown in Russia on Sunday.

Perkins, a 37-year-old who played college basketball at George Mason and St. John’s, improved from bronze in 2018 to earn her first world title, blanking defending world champion Yang Xiaoli of China 5-0 in Sunday’s final.

Video of the bout is here.

Perkins was slated to fight Yang in the 2018 World semifinals but withdrew due to medical reasons, according to USA Boxing.

The heavyweight division is 81+kg, but the heaviest Olympic weight division is capped at 75kg.

The last American to earn a world title was Claressa Shields in 2016, before she repeated as Olympic champion in Rio and moved to the professional ranks.

The Olympic trials are in December in Louisiana, after which winners will fight internationally in early 2020 in bids to qualify for the Tokyo Games.

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MORE: IOC strips Olympic status from boxing body AIBA