This is a strange game, isn’t it? Here we see the great Mary Keitany winning her third Virgin Money London Marathon in 2:17:01, and for the rest of the morning we try to figure out where her performance stands in the list of best-ever women’s marathons.
Now, forgetting all this mixed-gender, women’s-only, point-to-point, downhill or loop course qualifiers, Mary’s 2:17:01 is the second fastest women’s finishing time ever posted behind Paula Radcliffe’s 2:15:25, London 2003. But on the coverage shown in the USA by NBCSN her time was referred to as the fastest time ever in a women’s-only race, bettering Paula’s 2:17:42 from London 2005. But even that 2005 London time ranks behind Paula’s 2:17:18 from Chicago 2002. Confused?
When reading through the chattering class on LetsRun.com, and referring to my own 2002 journal when I covered the women’s race for NBC5 in Chicago, we remember LetsRun co-founder Weldon Johnson served as Paula’s “escort”, if not rabbit per se. But when Paula smashed that Chicago mark in London the following spring with her magical 2:15:25, she was also “escorted” by two Kenyan guys the entire way. (more…)
On January 20th Ethiopia’s triple Olympic track gold medalist Kenenisa Bekele will start the sixth marathon of his career at the Standard Charter Dubai Marathon. Coming off a near-world record 2:03:03 win in Berlin last fall in his last start there are indications that the great Ethiopian track and cross country runner may have his sights set on the current marathon world record of 2:02:57, set by Kenya’s Dennis Kimetto in Berlin 2014.
Now I am one of those journalists who has consistently lobbied for a greater concentration on competition over time, but since this is what is on offer, I thought I would take a deeper dive into the probabilities of a new world record, using the past as prologue.
On April 6, 2014 Kenenisa Bekele ran his marathon debut in Paris, France. Against a less than competitive field the 31 year-old won by over 2 ½ minutes, stopped the timer at 2:05:03, which was a course record, sixth fastest debut in history, and fastest first-time marathon ever by a man over 30.
At the time I thought it would be interesting to look ahead by looking back (NUMBERING UP BEKELE’S MARATHON DEBUT). After all, record performances are the links that allow fans to compare and contrast athletes of different eras in much the same way baseball fans compare stats across time (at least until the steroid era kind of ruined that – Oops, do we have more in common with baseball than we realize?)
Anyway, I decided the best way to compare Kenenisa’s potential in the marathon would be to judge his marathon debut and projected career personal best (PB) against other former track record holders who subsequently moved up to great success in the marathon. Accordingly, I saw Kenya’s Paul Tergat and Ethiopia’s Haile Gebrselassie, as the canaries in this very high quality coal mine, as both pre-dated Bekele as world record holders at 5000 & 10,000 meters on the track before adding the marathon record to their resumes.
After Bekele’s near-world record 2:03:03 win in Berlin in September 2016, I thought it might be fun to see how those projections from 2014 have played out so far. (more…)