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

Yuta Shitara Breaks Japanese Men's Half Marathon National Record in Berlin Marathon Tuneup at Usti nad Labem Half

A week after his 28:55 at the Birell Prague Grand Prix 10 km and just eight days out from the Berlin Marathon, Yuta Shitara (Honda) made the great leap forward, taking 8 seconds off Atsushi Sato's 2007 half marathon Japanese national record, finishing 8th at the Czech Republic's Usti nad Labem Half Marathon.

Shitara is probably most well-known outside Japan for going through halfway under 62 minutes during his marathon debut at this year's Tokyo Marathon and still ending up with a 2:09:27, but he's been turning heads in Japan since his second year at Toyo University when he broke a stage record at the 2012 Hakone Ekiden and outkicked the U.S.A.'s Dathan Ritzenhein to finish in 1:01:48 at the NYC Half two months later, until this year the fastest time ever by a Japanese man on U.S soil.

Three weeks before Tokyo this year he ran a 1:01:19 PB at the Marugame Half. Many people would call that a solid tuneup three weeks out from a serious marathon, but eight days? In P…

Hattori Becomes Third-Straight Japanese Men's Sydney Marathon Winner

Following within 24 hours of Yuki Kawauchi's win at the BMW Oslo Marathon and Yuta Shitara's national record at the Usti nad Labem Half Marathon, Shota Hattori (Honda) made it an overseas hat trick for men from Japan's Saitama prefecture when he won the Sydney Marathon in 2:15:16. Having debuted at February's Nobeoka Nishi Nippon Marathon with a 2:14:19 for 2nd, Hattori outlasted Ethiopian Werkuneh Seyoum Aboye, Kenyan Sammy Kigen Korir (Kenya) and compatriot Ryoma Takeuchi (Hitachi Butsuryu) to become the third-straight Japanese men's Sydney champ, winning by a margin of 20 seconds over Aboye.

Congratulations to Shota Hattori, male winner of the Blackmores Marathon – with a time of 02:15:16. #SydneyRunningFestivalpic.twitter.com/R47w8TCG2X — SydneyRunFestival (@officialbsrf) September 17, 2017
No Japanese women made the podium in the marathon, but in the accompanying half marathon both the men's and women's races saw Japanese runners-up. In the men's …

Ayuko Suzuki Leaves for Altitude Training in Boulder Motivated for the Marathon

2017 London World Championships 5000 m and 10000 m runner Ayuko Suzuki (25, Japan Post) left from Narita Airport on Sept. 18 for altitude training in Boulder, Colorado.

Two days earlier at a half marathon in Czech Republic, Yuta Shitara (25, Honda), like Suzuki born in 1991, broke the 10-year-old Japanese men's half marathon national record in a time of 1:00:17. "It's a big motivation to see an athlete the same age as me doing something like that," she said. Showing her determination to be one of her generation's leaders, she added, "I'll be 28 [at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics], right in my prime mentally and physically. I want to run big too."

In the leadup to the Tokyo Olympics Suzuki has the marathon in sight along with the track. "I need to run a half marathon and marathon somewhere once to check [how well they suit me]," she said. "Coach and I will be talking about it." If everything goes according to plan, December's Sanyo …