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.