Achieving the Two-Hour Marathon
In Berlin, in 2014, Kenyan Dennis Kimetto set the current marathon world record of 2:02:57, becoming the first person to break 2:03 at that distance. To put his speed into perspective — that’s an average of 4 minutes and 41 seconds per mile, for 26.2 miles. Most of us couldn’t keep that pace up for one mile, forget about having to run 25 more. Perhaps even more amazing is the fact that Kimetto’s new record is further proof of a powerful downward trend in marathon times among professional athletes — the world record has now been broken a whopping nine times since 1998. (As a point of comparison, the marathon world record time didn’t change at all between 1988 and 1998.) If the current rate continues, Alex Hutchinson reports that we can expect to see a sub-two-hour-marathon by 2030. Data analysis aside, the question remains, is it physically possible for a human body to run that fast, for that long? A sub-two would require running less than 4:35 per mile. That pace is more than attainable at the half-marathon distance—Eritrean Zersenay Tadese sustained a 4:27 pace for 13.1 miles in Lisbon in 2010 to set the current half-marathon world record time. But so far, no one has been able to translate that into the longer distance of a marathon. Yet.
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