Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Marathon News: Running Fast & Dying, Mutai & Waitz

Monday was Patriots Day in Massachusetts. The locals take the day off and have at it, the Red Sox play at 11:00 am and, of course, they run the Boston Marathon. This past Monday Geoffrey Mutai of Kenya ran 26 miles, 365 yards faster than it's ever been run. He knocked it out in 2:03:02 and beat Haile Gebrselassie's sanctioned world record by an astounding 57 seconds. I say sanctioned because Mutai's record probably won't be recognized (though officials are applying to have it sanctioned). Boston, despite being generally acknowledged as a difficult course, drops over 450 feet in elevation from start to finish and does not begin and end near the same spot. In this case a starting wind of 21 mph certainly aided the runners. Big deal. This guy ripped off 26+ miles at a better than a 4:45/mile clip.

This got a few friends and I into a conversation about whether we will see a sub-two hour marathon in our lifetime. Sub-4:40s for 26 miles. As opposed to most other Olympic records, guys are taking chunks out of the marathon record. Since 1908 it's come down over 50 minutes and just since 2002 it's come down 1:39. More than a handful of guys are running half-marathons in under an hour. Barriers like the four-minute mile are artificial ones that are culturally created. The two-hour marathon is another. It will get broken. But if I had to bet, it won't happen before 2040.


The day after the Boston marathon Grete Waitz died in her native Norway. She was 57-year old. If you lived in New York City in the '80s you remember her. She won nine New York City marathons, setting a world record in 1978 in her first-ever race at that distance. She captured the city, as Geroge Vecsey writes, like no female athlete ever. Calling her the greatest female distance runner ever would not be overstating it. Here is the Times obituary.

1 comment:

smw said...

Thanks for the nod to the running world.