Skip to main content

Sub-X Marathon and Half-Marathon World Records

by Brett Larner
all statistics c/o the ARRS database
corrections and additions welcome

The upcoming sub-2 marathon attempt is generating a lot of talk about the very sharp end of men's marathoning, the delivery of the single greatest marathon performance of all time. But there are other ways of thinking about who ranks at the top of the list of all-time greats than just a single run by a single athlete. Who performed the most consistently at a high level, had the greatest depth at quality as a marathoner over their career? Sub-x marathon records, the greatest number of times a single runner has gone under 2:03, under 2:04, under 2:05, are one way to look at that.

The table below shows the seven men from four countries who hold the records for every one minute increment from sub-2:03 to sub-2:20. Click to enlarge. Athletes with names in green are still active, while those in red no longer compete. Within the table green indicates a sub-x record, yellow a record which a given athlete is within three marathons of tying, and red a level beyond that athlete's PB.


Kenyans hold the records at the four fastest levels, Ethiopians the next six levels, Japanese the next seven, and the U.S.A. the final record, sub-2:20. World record holder Dennis Kimetto is the only man to have broken 2:03 as of this writing with one sub-2:03. London Olympics bronze medalist Wilson Kipsang holds the records for sub-2:04, sub-2:05 and sub-2:06. The sub-2:07 record, ten, is jointly held by former world record holder Haile Gebrselassie and Beijing Olympics bronze medalist Tsegaye Kebede, with Kebede also holding the sub-2:08, sub-2:09, sub-2:10 and sub-2:11 records. Abebe Mekonnen holds the sub-2:12 record with 22. Incheon Asian Games bronze medalist Yuki Kawauchi holds every record from sub-2:13 to sub-2:19, with Doug Kurtis holding the sub-2:20 record at 76.

Looking at potential updates to these records, Kipsang is one sub-2:07 away from tying the sub-2:07 and sub-2:08 records and two from adding both to his resume. Given his pair of 2:03 times in his last two marathons that seems realistic. Kebede is one more sub-2:07 from eliminating Gebrselassie from the list of record holders, but with more than three years having passed since he last ran that fast time isn't on his side. Over the last few years Kebede and Kawauchi have been waging an intense but unnoticed battle to erase Mekonnen from the books, Kebede taking away his sub-x records from the faster end and Kawauchi from the slower. Both are now one sub-2:12 from tying Mekonnen's last remaining record, which survived the month of April after Kawauchi ran 2:13:04 in Daegu and Kebede 2:12:31 in Hamburg.


Given the frequency of his racing Kawauchi is likely to get there first, potentially tying it this Sunday at the Volkswagen Prague Marathon and then breaking it at one of the three other marathons he plans to run over the summer. He's also on track to break Kurtis' sub-2:20 record in March or April next year. With enough success at the faster end of his ability he has the potential to hold every record from sub-2:10 to sub-2:20 by the time he's done. Uniquely among the seven record holders, Kawauchi also holds a sub-x record in the half marathon, shown above, with 70 career sub-1:06 half marathons to date. As in the marathon, at the faster end he has the potential to also take the sub-1:04 and sub-1:05 records from Kenyan Philemon Kipkering Metto.


Looking at other active athletes with the potential to break some of the marathon sub-x records, Rio Olympics gold medalist Eliud Kipchoge, the focus of the sub-2 project, is the clear favorite with one race to go to tie Kipsang's sub-2:06 record of eight. Berlin World Championships silver medalist Emmanuel Mutai is also one race away from becoming the third runner to run sub-2:07 ten times in his career, but like Kebede it has been three years since he has run that kind of time. Both he and Birmingham World Half Marathon Championships silver medalist Bernard Kiprop Kipyego are two races away from tying the sub-2:08 record of 13.


Among other active athletes with ten or more sub-2:10 marathons to their names, none is likely to break one of the sub-x records anytime soon. Beijing World Championships silver medalist Yemane Tsegay and Rio silver medalist Feyisa Lelisa, both of Ethiopia, are closest, each of them four races away from tying the sub-2:10 record. Tsegay is likewise four races away from Mekonnen's sub-2:12 record, but as with Kebede that record is likely to be put out of reach by Kawauchi before he gets there.

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Comments

Most-Read This Week

Kiplagat, Ichiyama, Tadese and Shitara Lead Marugame Half Elite Field

The Kagawa Marugame International Half Marathon is always one of Japan's deepest races of the year on the men's side, its 2012 running setting a world record for the most men under 64 minutes in a single half marathon in history. On the women's side the field is always smaller but still home to the 1:07:26 Japanese national record set by Kayoko Fukushi (Wacoal) back in 2006.

Edna Kiplagat (Kenya), Sara Hall (U.S.A.) and Betsy Saina (Kenya) lead the women's international field, two-time defending champ Eunice Kirwa (Bahrain) giving Marugame a miss this year. Fresh off a 1:09:14 PB at last month's Sanyo Ladies Half, Mao Ichiyama (Wacoal) leads a trio of Japanese women with recent sub-1:10 times, something that has become a puzzling rarity lately. Fukushi is also back, her recent best of 1:12:04 a long way from her best days.

Speaking of which, world record holder Zersenay Tadese (Eritrea) will be looking to break 60 minutes for the first time since 2015. His toughest…

Cheboitibin, Kiprono and Sonoda Top Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon Elite Entries

With just over two weeks to go the organizers of the Feb. 4 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon have released their elite field for this year's race. With its history as an elite men-only race Beppu-Oita's women's field is still tiny given its status as an IAAF silver label race, but this year promises a good race between two local 2:32 women, 2016 winner Hiroko Yoshitomi (Memolead) and Yuka Takemoto (Canon AC Kyushu), that should see the 2:39:57 course record fall. Defending champ Haruka Yamaguchi (AC Kita) also returns with a 2:38:43 PB from last fall that puts her range of the course record as well.

The men's race is heavier-duty, with a spot in the MGC Race Tokyo Olympic Trials available to the top Japanese man under 2:11:00 and to up to five others if they clear 2:10. Hayato Sonoda (Kurosaki Harima) and Taiga Ito (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) are the only Japanese men in the field to have run those kinds of times in the last couple of years, and with support from 2:09~2:10 men

Tokyo Marathon to Move to March Date Beginning in 2019

At a press conference in Tokyo on Dec. 12, the Tokyo Marathon Foundation announced that beginning in 2019, the Tokyo Marathon will move from its current date on the last Sunday of February to the first Sunday of March. The next Imperial succession is set to take place in 2019, meaning that February 23 will become the Emperor's Birthday national holiday starting in 2020. The race date is being preemptively moved to avoid any potential overlap.

According to the Foundation, setting up and breaking down the facilities necessary to hold the Tokyo Marathon takes several days. With the finish area being positioned in front of the Imperial Palace there were concerns that problems would arise due to the large number of people who would gather in the area to celebrate the Emperor's birthday.

Translator's note: The Tokyo Marathon previously experimented with a March race date in 2009 but abandoned it to return to February the next year. Since 1994 the first Sunday of March has been t…