SUB 2:10 BONANZA IN 2019

Kahana, Maui – The 2019 marathon year is all but complete, and it has been historic, to say the least. While the men’s world record withstood a strong challenge by 37 year-old Kenenisa Bekele in Berlin where the Ethiopian superstar seemed to finally get serious about the distance, coming within two seconds of Kenyan rival Eliud Kipchoge’s 2018 mark of 2:01:39,  the once seemingly untouchable 2:15:25 women’s record by England Paula Radcliffe set in London 2003 came crashing down in Chicago beneath the weight of Kenya’s Brigid Kosgei’s mind-numbing 2:14:04.

And for his part, 34 year-old Kipchoge kept adding to his own ne plus ultra career by winning again in London in the spring before delivering history’s first sub-2  hour 26.2 miler at the INEOS Challenge exhibition in Vienna in October.

But those three weren’t alone.  In 2019 it seemed like everyone and their kid brother took the once proud marathon distance to the woodshed, as technology, talent, youth, and God knows what else delivered the following comparative numbers.

Year               Sub-2:10s    Primary Nations

2016                  150             Ken 98;  Eth 39

2017                   186             Ken 113; Eth 41

2018                   215             Ken  97;  Eth 67

2019                   293             Ken 123; Eth 98

As the data suggests, Ethiopia is on the rise, while their Kenyan neighbors to the south have seen their once wide margin in depth whittled down considerably.  As to why, I will leave to you, dear readers. That’s a stone for us to turn over on another day.

But the number that stands out like an outrigger bunion is the 293 men’s sub-2:10s, a staggering 129 more than in 2018, with Ethiopians improving by 57 year over year, while the Kenyans added 47 more in 2019 than in 2018.

As the latest New York Times story on the role of shoe technology says, Nike’s Fastest Shoes May Give Runner’s a Bigger Advantage Than We Thought.  Yes, we have crossed the Rubicon and entered a whole new territory where new judgements and new expectations will make old marks seem as quaint as hoop skirts by comparison.

The top American time of the year came in Amsterdam where Leonard Korir finished 11th in 2:07:56. His time represented the 124th best of 2019 worldwide.  Scott Fauble’s 2:09:09 seventh place (#220 globally) and Jared Ward’s 2:09:25 eighth in Boston (#240) showed again that Americans tend to be better pure racers than paced time trialers.

To round out the ledger, Morocco posted 11 sub-2:10s; Bahrain, Japan, and Eritrea notched 8 each; Uganda 7; USA, France and Turkey 3; Great Britain, Switzerland, Belgium, Netherlands, China, and Israel 2; with Canada, Peru, South Africa, Italy, Spain, New Zealand, Tanzania, South Korea, and Norway 1 each.

I will do a women’s breakdown in the coming days.



4 thoughts on “SUB 2:10 BONANZA IN 2019

  1. I hate to be so cynical, Toni, but perhaps in the future when you compile these stats, you could put them in the form of a spreadsheet, and distinguish “clean” versus “aided” performances.

  2. Mind boggling stats, Toni!

    I don’t have to tell you… or most of your readers… that Kenya is still way behind the curve in out of competition PED testing although more Kenyans have been caught in the last 2-3 years with even a mediocre attempt of testing. Kenya positives rival only Russia in terms of number of athletes caught and suspended.

    The bigger news is that the Integrity Unit of the IAAF/Global Athletics and WADA have yet to mount the same effort to another East African country… namely Ethiopia!?! Should we be shocked that Ethiopia enjoyed the biggest growth in sub-2:10 marathoners in 2019?

    Of course not! It goes hand in hand…. and there is more money …. and less testing…. in Half Marathon and Full Marathon races… than anywhere else. Hence the growing number of African runners in those distances… even the young ones who have figured out (long with their agents!) that there is more bucks on the roads than on the track. Sad but true although the great depth of talent now in Kenya and Ethiopia will still be impressive at the World Championships and Olympic Games.

  3. “….Americans tend to be better pure racers than paced time trialers.”

    In other words….Americans are slower than East Africans….

    293 sub 2:10s….Amazing…also in the Times article..
    “Consider that in the final months of 2019, about 41 percent of marathons under three hours were reported to have been run in these shoes (for races in which we have data)….”

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