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

Norway's Moen Blasts 2:05:48 European Record to Win Fukuoka

More than living up to the promise of his 59:48 Norwegian half marathon record at October's Valencia Half, Sondre Nordtad Moen took down all comers to win the 2017 Fukuoka International Marathon in a European record 2:05:48.

【福岡国際マラソン】

🏆優 勝 モーエン 2:05.48! pic.twitter.com/lpzMUYHfhu — NOBUKI T&F (@nobu_777__tf) December 3, 2017
Superb pacing work took the lead group through 30 km with almost perfect 3:00/km splits along the way, a race of attrition that shaved down the field to a core group of five real contenders. Defending champ Yemane Tsegay (Ethiopia) was the first big name to go, with 2:06 man Lani Rutto (Kenya), the debuting Keita Shitara (Japan/Hitachi Butsuryu) and last year's 3rd-placer Yuki Kawauchi (Japan/Saitama Pref. Gov't) among the other big names to lose touch in the first half, leaving Moen, favorite Bedan Karoki (Kenya/DeNA), London Olympics gold medalist Stephen Kiprotich (Uganda), last year's 5th-placer Amanuel Mesel (Eritrea) and Boston Maratho…

Morita Goes Sub-32 in 10000 m Debut

Running her track 10000 m debut of a 32:27 road 10 km in the spring, Kaori Morita (Panasonic) closed hard off a slow opening pace to win the National Corporate Federation Women's Long Distance Time Trials 10000 m Friday afternoon in Yamaguchi.

A new filler meet to take up space on the calendar following the National Corporate Women's Ekiden's move to November, the Corporate Time Trials meet featured one heat of 3000 m and three 5000 m heats before its main focus, the 10000 m. After a 3:19 first 1000 m Morita's teammate Yuka Hori, winner of the 10.9 km Third Stage at Nationals, took over, leading the field at 3:12 to 3:14 / km pace through 7000 m. Morita, who won the 7.0 km First Stage, went to the front at that point with a 3:14 to 8000 m before taking off.

Clocking her fastest split up to that point with a 3:07 between 8 and 9000 m, Morita closed impressively with a 3:01 final km to dip under 32 minutes as she won in 31:59.94. Steepler Chikako Mori (Sekisui Kagaku) w…

Shitara Wins Kumamoto Kosa 10-Miler

In a year that saw him deliver one of the most memorable debut marathons in history, a half marathon national record, 10000 m and marathon PBs and more, Yuta Shitara (Honda) ended 2017 on a high note, beating three-time defending champion Jeremiah Thuku Karemi (Toyota Kyushu) to win the 42nd Kumamoto Kosa 10-Miler. Shitara, Karemi, London World Championships marathoner Hiroto Inoue (MHPS), Ethiopian Abayneh Degu (Yasukawa Denki) and track ace Shuho Dairokuno (Asahi Kasei) ran together in a lead group through the early going, but Shitara was just too much for the others to handle.

Shitara broke the tape in 45:58, only the fourth Japanese man to ever clear 45 minutes. Karemi was well under last year's winning time but nowhere close to catching Shitara, finishing 2nd in 46:10 and Inoue only 2 seconds behind him. With many corporate and university teams using Kosa to tune up for the Jan. 1 New Year Ekiden and Jan. 2-3 Hakone Ekiden, it regularly produces the deepest 10 mile results i…