Another large stride was taken at the weekend towards running’s last great barrier as Kenyan Dennis Kimetto broke the marathon world record by winning in Berlin in 2:02:57.
It was a 27 second improvement on the previous best set at the same race 12 months earlier by fellow countryman Wilson Kipsang. Kimetto’s astounding run now brings the first ever sub two hour marathon less than 180 seconds away.
Surely now it is a case of not ‘if’, but ‘when’ the barrier will be broken. The marathon world record has improved by two minutes in 10 years and by three minutes in sixteen years. If the same level of progression is maintained, the iconic mark will be broken in 2030.
Of course, the closer man gets to the very edge of human possibilities, the more incremental the progress.
Then again, if the men’s marathon has its own Paula Radcliffe moment, we could be looking at a one hour-something marathon a lot sooner. When Paula clocked 2:15:25 in London 2033, it was over three minutes faster than any woman had managed before.
And, although it is a very different event, Usain Bolt has redefined what is possible in the sprints. Who’s to say a similar figure will not emerge in the marathon? Training and coaching continually develops, footwear and running apparel are ever improving and nutrition and other areas of sport science are increasingly sophisticated.
The record is also not being clipped by one or two seconds. 26 seconds is a fair chunk. Kimetto’s run will not only have given him confidence, but his rivals’ confidence that they too can go better. After all, ‘If Dennis can, why can’t I?’ they will ask.
One thing is for sure, the Berlin Marathon is the place most likely to host the landmark occasion when it does come. The German city has hosted the last six occasions that the world record has been set. It has also been broken three times in the last four runnings of the event. It has become the city for world records due to its flat course and benign conditions.
One day it may yet host one of man’s greatest athletic feats. And it may be sooner rather than later…