30-year-old Kimetto Sets Marathon WR in Berlin

On Sunday morning in Berlin, Dennis Kimetto and Emmanuel Mutai ran the fastest and second fastest times ever for a record-eligible marathon course. With his astonishing 2:02:57, Kimetto became the first human being in history to run a marathon in under 2:03:00, besting Geoffrey Mutai’s wind-aided 2:03:02 set at Boston in 2011.

It is an astonishing accomplishment for the man who didn’t begin running seriously until his mid-twenties, and was unknown on the world stage until a couple of years ago. The 30-year-old Kimetto now holds the course records at Tokyo, Chicago, and Berlin.

Much of the credit for the sub-2:03 goes to Mutai, who pushed the pace hard after the pace-makers dropped out at 30k. Mutai’s runner-up finish was the latest in a remarkable string of outstanding second-place finishes. Since taking 2nd place in the 2009 world championships, Mutai has run eight marathons, and finished in the silver medal position an incredible SIX times.

Kimetto’s win is also the latest data point in a mini-trend of older runners setting world records. Six of the last seven WR-setters have been thirty or older. Since Belayneh Dinsamo ran a WR at age 22 in 1988, only one runner (Patrick Makau) has been younger than 28. Here’s the complete list:

 Time    Athlete            Date      Site      Birthdate  Age
 2:06:50 Belayneh Dinsamo   17-Apr-88 Rotterdam 28-Jun-65  22
 2:06:05 Ronaldo da Costa   20-Sep-98 Berlin    7-Jun-70   28
 2:05:42 Khalid Khannouchi  24-Oct-99 Chicago   12-Sep-71  28
 2:05:38 Khalid Khannouchi  14-Apr-02 London    12-Sep-71  30
 2:04:55 Paul Tergat        28-Sep-03 Berlin    17-Jun-69  34
 2:04:26 Haile Gebrselassie 30-Sep-07 Berlin    18-Apr-73  34
 2:03:59 Haile Gebrselassie 28-Sep-08 Berlin    18-Apr-73  35
 2:03:38 Patrick Makau      25-Sep-11 Berlin    2-Mar-85   26
 2:03:23 Wilson Kipsang     29-Sep-13 Berlin    15-Mar-82  31
 2:02:57 Dennis Kimetto     28-Sep-14 Berlin    22-Jan-84  30

Average (since 1988): 30

It’s a curious discrepancy that while world records are set by relatively older runners, the trend in Olympic gold medals is the opposite, with recent medals going to relatively younger runners.

 Year   City        Athlete            Age
 1988   Seoul       Gelindo Bordin     29
 1992   Barcelona   Young-cho Hwan     22
 1996   Atlanta     Josiah Thugwane    25
 2000   Sidney      Gezehagne Abere    22
 2004   Athens      Stefano Baldini    33
 2008   Beijing     Sammy Wanjiru      21
 2012   London      Stephen Kiprotich  23

 Average (since 1988): 25

I wonder why that is? Maybe younger runners have more to gain, financially, by competing the Olympics on slower courses and making a name for themselves. Or maybe the sample size is too small to consider it more than a statistical fluctuation, but it’s interesting all the same.

Oh, and if Kenenisa Bekele should somehow eclipse Kimetto’s time in Chicago in a few weeks, he’ll do it at the ripe old age of 32.

About Jon Waldron

Running and Racing have been important parts of my life for as long as I can remember. I ran Track and Cross Country at Amherst HS, back in the day, and am proud to have been training and competing with the Cambridge Sports Union (CSU) for more than thirty years. If my bones hold out, I hope to continue for another thirty. Sixteen years ago, I began coaching, first as an Asst. Coach at Newton North HS in Newton, MA, and for the past ten years, as Head Track and Cross Country Coach at Concord Academy in Concord, Massachusetts. I've been writing about running for almost as long as I've been running, dating back to high school, when I would write meet summaries for the Amherst Record for about $0.33 per column inch. I've been blogging about running since 2005, and began blogging at "the runner eclectic" in 2014. Until recently I also had a day job, working full-time as a Technical Product Manager for Nuance Communications, based in Burlington, MA. But I am now on what might turn out to be a permanent sabbatical. Thank you for reading my blog, and please consider leaving a comment.
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