Now that we can all take a breather after the stunning performance of Geoffrey Mutai at the Boston Marathon (2:03:02), and the statistics gurus and physiologists have hurried back to their labs, the question of the day has become “Is it possible for someone to run a marathon in under two hours, and if so, when?”
Pace needed to run 26.2 miles in 2 hours: 4:35 per mile (ouch)
I wasn’t alive back in the mid 50’s but all the buzz back then in sports was whether or not anyone could break the 4-minute mile (a feat Roger Bannister accomplished in 1954). At the time, people wondered if the human body was capable of such a performance, just as they are now debating about a human’s capacity to run a sub 2-hour 26.2 miles.
This article in the New York Times notes that it required 24 years to move the marathon mark — incrementally — from 2:08:05 to just under 2:04. Much of what I have read so far by some of the so-called “experts” suggests the achievement is possible – they just can’t agree if it will be in the near future or several generations from now.
Author and Exercise Physiologist Russ Tucker details all that would need to happen for someone to break the 2-hour marathon barrier in this article, written in 2008. He personally does not expect that goal to be achieved any time soon. Then again, Mutai’s time of 2:03:02 apparently took Dr. Tucker by surprise since he states, “I think it will be surprising if we see a 2:03:30 clocking in the next ten years.”