Time set for fastest global marathon run

Christine McGinn
(Australian Associated Press)


A Victorian economist has pinned down the likelihood of a marathon being run in under two hours.

A male athlete has a one in 10 chance of cracking the sub-two-hour marathon record in May 2032, according to a study published in the Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise journal on Wednesday.

Yet the chance of a female athlete ever breaking the two-hour mark for the 42.195 kilometres is less than one in 100, with the best time calculated at 2:05.31.

The fastest time any person will be able to run this distance is 1:58.05, according to Monash University Associate Professor Simon Angus’ research.

“If an International Association of Athletics Federations marathon were run in May 2032, then I would predict there is a 10% chance that a runner in that event will break the two-hour mark,” Dr Angus said.

“While a sub-two hour run could occur anytime between now and May 2032, the likelihood of that occurring is extremely rare.”

Dr Angus, an ultramarathon runner, said breaking the sub-two-hour marathon in an official event had attracted growing interest in recent times, with commercial and international momentum building.

He used the International Association of Athletics Federations’ top marathon results since 1950 to calculate performance times and record-breaking intervals.

Economic modelling was used to compare world-record progression to future running capacity.

The model is, on average, accurate to within one per cent for men – or about 70 seconds – across a 66-year period, which includes a 19-minute drop in time.

Yet for women, the data is accurate to within three per cent – or about 200 seconds.

The research also shines a light on potential barriers faced by elite female marathon runners, with Paula Radcliffe’s 2:15.25 record set in 2003, still the best yet.

Dr Angus advocates a goal of a 2:10.00 record for women to empower long-distance athletes.

“This finding should cause public and private actors to work harder at reducing barriers and increasing opportunities for elite female athletic performance,” he said.

“The evidence of this study and others like it is that there are likely world-record female marathoners living today, principally in Africa. We just don’t yet know who they are.”

More than 800 marathon events are held worldwide, each year.


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