When the calendar flips, I always like to do a deeper dive into the past year in marathon running, just to see what the numbers might suggest. And from the looks of it, not much changed in 2017 other than the Breaking2 Project in Monza, Italy in May when world #1 Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya came oh, so close to 1:59:59.

Other than that, it was more general excellence out of East Africa, undercut by yet another drug sanction of a TOP echelon athlete (2016 London and Rio Olympics champion, Kenyan Jemima Sumgong). And, finally, though their times weren’t any different from previous years, there were two American breakthrough wins in Majors at the end of the season, Galen Rupp in Chicago, then Shalane Flanagan in New York City. But in this post I focus on the men.

Here are the numbers as I attempted to count them on the site, and a comparison with the earlier years of this teens decade in Century 21.

BREAKDOWN OF SUB-2:10 – 2017

Total – 186
Kenyan –   113 (60.75%)
Ethiopian – 41 (22%)
American –    2 (Galen Rupp, 2:09:20, 1st in Chicago)
TOP time – 2:03:32, Eliud Kipchoge, Berlin

Total- 150
Kenyan –     98 (65.3%)
Ethiopian-  39 (26%)
American –   0 (Galen Rupp, 2:10:05, 3rd, Rio Olympics)
TOP time – 2:03:03, Keninisa Bekele, Berlin

Total – 172
Kenyan –     97 (56.4%)
Ethiopian – 57 (33.13%)
American –    0 (Luke Puskedra, 2:10:24, 5th in Chicago)
TOP time: 2:04:00, Eliud Kipchoge, Berlin

Total – 180
Kenyan –  106 (58.88%)
Ethiopian – 57 (31.6%)
American –    1 (Meb Keflezighi,  2:08:37, 1st in Boston)
TOP time – 2:02:57, Dennis Kimetto, Berlin

Total – 189
Kenyan –    99 (52.4%)
Ethiopian- 61 (32.2%)
American –   1 (Dathan Ritzenhein, 2:09:45, 5th in Chicago)
TOP time – 2:03:23, Wilson Kipsang, Berlin

Total – 220
Kenyan –  120 (54.5%)
Ethiopian – 64 (29%)
American –    5 (Dathan Ritzenhein (twice), 2:07:47, 9th in Chicago, also Ryan Hall, Meb Keflezighi, Abdi Abdirahman)
TOP time- 2:04:15, Geoffrey Mutai, Berlin

Total – 182
Kenyan –  110 (61%)
Ethiopian – 42 (22%)
American –    3 (Ryan Hall (twice), 2:04:58, 4th in Boston, also Meb)
TOP time – 2:03:02. Geoffrey Mutai, Boston

Total – 144
Kenyan –     79 (54.86%)
Ethiopian – 47 (32.6%)
American –    0 (Brett Gotcher, 2:10:36, 7th in Houston)
TOP time – 2:04:48, Patrick Makau, Rotterdam



9 thoughts on “MARATHONING 2017 – BY THE #s

  1. If you dig a little deeper into the US male stats, you’ll discover that the base (number of sub 2:20’s) holding up the sub 2:10’s has also dropped significantly from the early 1980’s. Meanwhile the number of Kenyan sub 2:30’s has skyrocketed in the same time period. One change that could help would be for USATF to open up the times for getting in to the Olympic Trials. Maybe a lower (pay your own expenses) tier for any US male that break 2:30. That just might get more talent to pursue the long term commitment needed to reach their best. More base should create more peak break troughs. Just my take after my 44 years of marathon experience.

  2. This shows how amazing Bill Rodgers’ times were. Comparing the quality of the shoes, training, physical and medical treatment that Rupp receives compared to Bill’s, Galen should be able to run much faster, especially since he only races 10x or less per year!

    1. Lloyd,

      Having been a close observer of Bill’s training, I can tell you there was very little science involved. All very much seat of the pants. But it sure worked well. Thanks for adding to the conversation.


  3. Thank you so much for “statistically de-mystifying” the Men’s sub 2:10 reality!!! My conclusion: My Ethiopian Heroes have CONSISTENTLY LAGGED behind their Kenyan peers, and hopefully through the leadership of the legendary “Emperor” Haile Gebresellassie, the abstract numbers will flip to Ethiopia’s favor at the top of the heap!!!

  4. One American sub 2:10 in the past 4 years…..not surprising…except for a very small few who are sponsored …it’s impossible to make a living from distance running these days as opposed to the 80s when running around 2:10 had relatively big rewards…I don’t see much hope for the future…

  5. I don’t necessarily have any conclusions, but I love when you do these statistics. I completely devour them as I study the numbers .

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