It’s pretty silly now to think back and imagine those who said it was physically impossible to break 4-minutes in the mile. The world-record has gone from: John Paul Jones (U.S.), 4:14.4 in 1913 to Hicham El Guerrouj (Morocco), 3:43.13 in 1999.
Now the great barrier and debate of our time is the sub-2-hour marathon (4:34 per mile)! Seems ridiculous, right? According to Jack’s calculator the equivalent performance for the almost untouchable 3:43 mile record in the marathon is 2:03:21. Let’s look at the progression of the world-record in the marathon: Johnny Hayes (U.S.), 2:55 in 1908 to Patrick Makau (Kenya), 2:03:38 in 2011 (4:43 per mile).
In roughly the last 10 years the record has gotten two minutes faster. At that rate you’ve got at least 20-25 more years just to get to 2:01 and it will obviously only get much harder to inch towards sub-2 as the record gets faster.
Many of the greatest marathoners ever say it will be done. Meb Keflezighi said, “It’s going to happen in my lifetime.” Ryan Hall concurs in this Flotrack video. Former record-holder and arguably the greatest runner of all time, Haile Gebrselassie said, “No question. The first sub two-hour marathon will need 20 to 25 years, but it will definitely happen.” Paul Tergat, record-holder at 2:04:55, was the only elite we could find on the record who felt it would never be done, “I don’t think this will be possible in future because I believe that we are already near to the limit. To run 2:02 will be very, very hard.”
Update: We’ve got a new world record thanks to Dennis Kimetto’s 2:02:57 performance in Berlin this past weekend. That’s an 83.6 VDOT which scores .4 higher than El Guerrouj’s untouchable mile world record from 1999. And Kimetto thinks he can go faster!
So what do you think? Weigh in on our poll.