Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Record

So if you follow professional distance running at all, you probably already know this, but the fastest marathon ever was run this past Sunday in Berlin. 

Dennis Kimetto of Kenya ran a 2:02:57, becoming the first person in history to run the marathon in under 2 hours and 3 minutes. 

Here are a few good news stories:
http://www.runnersworld.com/races/dennis-kimetto-breaks-world-record-at-berlin-marathon (wow, serious training started in 2010!)
http://www.runnersworld.com/elite-runners/from-poverty-to-podium (Kimetto's background, and in sum, why I believe the Africans get the records, see my review of Running with the Kenyans (incidentally, I hate when I do an entire year's worth of books in one post, but I'm on track to do the same thing in 2014; I need a June 2015 reminder to break next year into 2 posts))

The same two who finished 1-2 at Chicago in 2013 were 1-2 in Berlin this year.  What I think is especially cool is that even if Kimetto hadn't done it, someone else would have -- yes, two guys broke the previous world record on Sunday!  Second place Emmanuel Mutai, also of Kenya, came in at 2:03:13.  The prior world record was 2:03:23 from Berlin in 2013 (two people ran 2:03:0x at Boston in 2011 (not me), but that course isn't eligible for the world record).  But thanks to Kimetto, Mutai's name won't even show up as a world record for a day.  I kind of feel cheated for him, kind of like Shalene in Boston 2014, who ran her goal time, which she thought would be good enough to win it all (and would have many other years), but there were others who were faster that day, so it was only good enough for 7th.  Further proof that elite racing is almost an entirely different sport from regular mortal marathoning where running the plan and getting a PR is usually prized above all else, rather than what other people run on the same day. 

Anyway, that new world record kind of makes me a little nervous for my own racing future.  The Berlin Marathon is my current PR. 

How can I ever hope to beat that if I'm older and on a different course? 

(NB:  I'm also about 3-5 pounds heavier than I was then, but that's something I can control.  The age, not so much.) 

I suppose I could go for a cheater course, something like St. George that is a net descent and not eligible for the world record (though I've already beaten my St. George time).  I understand the distinction in needing a flat course for consideration for the world record, but I don't feel like it's something I would disqualify in terms of my own personal records -- as long as the course is a certified distance, I'm inclined to count it.

So on that note, my marathon future may consist entirely of downhill courses! 

On another note, I might need to change my sub-2 prediction.  I've always though of the world record as improving by about 1 minute per decade.  Sometimes 2 minutes very quickly, sometimes no real movement for more than a decade.  There's no real historical data to support this if you look back a while, but for most of my lifetime, the 1 minute per decade has been about right. 

In the 60s, it went from 2:15 to 2:09.
In the 70s, it held in the 2:09s.
In the 80s, it dropped to the 2:06s.
In the 90s, it dropped to the 2:05s. 
By the end of 2009, it had dropped to 2:03:59.
And now, in 2014, we're down to 2:02:57.

So it's a question of whether we'll get to the 2:01s very quickly now, or if there is going to be another long break before it happens.  After breaking into the 2:01s and the 2:00s, I would think that much like the 4 minute mile, that 2 hour barrier is going to create an extra hurdle in breaking it given the mental aspect.  So maybe it will stall out at 2:00:04 for 20 years or something. 

If I weren't worried that it would lead to possible (additional?) use of performance enhancing drugs (no idea how much of an issue that is among marathoners), I would say that some of the big marathons right now should buy insurance and put out a HUGE prize for the sub-2 and offer it up every year for the next decade.  Like a million dollars huge.  I wonder if that would be enough to make it happen before 2035, which is roughly when I would guess it would happen (not by me) (winky face). 


  1. Running a marathon in 2:03. I cannot imagine. I can't wait to check out those new stories. Thanks for sharing; I hadn't seen them.

  2. Yeah, we can't do anything about the age thing .... :)

    But I also think that the pressure would lead to performance enhancing drugs ... and honestly I don't know what role they play in running now. I like to think of running as different, but it is a money-sport for many people, so it is pretty obvious people will try to cheat where they can't perform. Sad.

  3. Yeah, amazing feat and great articles - so inspiring to read about these athletes.

    Thanks so much for your comment on the PF treatment - will give it a go tonight!

  4. This last week's times were amazing - and I was pretty impressed with Shalane. I've been pondering the possibility of sub-2, but when I don't know. It does seem like we may be tapering off, nearing the current human limits. Will we learn how to stretch them? And when will that happen? Who knows. The guy who will run sub-2 might be already famous, or just a kid right now!

    1. That's kind of fun to imagine. Based on my guess that it will happen about 21 years from now, whoever he is, he's probably 6-10 years old, and is probably running around with his friends right now for fun. Crazy! Little does he know that the more he runs, the more fluid and strong he gets, he'll be the most famous distance runner of all maybe!

  5. I think your idea of a prize for a sub-2 (with the condition of drug testing immediately following the race) is an awesome idea!