|Geoffrey Mutai made a mockery |
of Boston and New York course
records in 2011
The first marathon of the modern Olympics in 1896 was won by Spiridon Louis, with a time of 2:58:50. Since then, marathon times have continued to get faster and faster. A century ago, the men’s times came in just under 3 hours; now the ultimate goal is to run a race under the 2 hour mark. Kenya's Geoffrey Mutai holds the best marathon time at 2:03:02, which he ran at the Boston Marathon. (Note: This time has not been considered for the official world record due to factors of elevation and Boston course measurements). For a visual representation, see this interactive graph showing the lowering trend in marathon world record times for both men and women.
Why have marathon times improved so much in the past 100 years? A 2010 article from the Journal of Applied Physiology called, “The Two-Hour Marathon: Who and When?” , noted that the adoption of high volume and year-round training in the 1950s has shaved 16 minutes off the world record time, falling between 1 and 5 minutes each decade. The report also notes other factors that have come about in the past few decades, such as increased prize money and competitive opportunities to become a professional athlete. In addition, there have been significant improvements in running gear, as well as our scientific understanding of athletic performance.
|2011 Chicago Marathon winner, Moses|
Mosop, thinks he can run 2:02
Thus, it is easy to understand why improvements in our understanding of sports physiology have contributed to the significant improvement of marathon times. We have a better idea than ever before of how runners can improve their times. For an example, take the knowledge that interval training helps increase a person’s lactate threshold.
While outstanding running economy seems to be much more prevalent in elite runners than high VO2 max values, scientists still have much to learn about the relationship between them. As the world’s best marathoners continue to pursue that elusive 2-hour mark, who knows how marathon times will improve in the next 100 years?
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