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October 17, 2014

A New Marathon World Record of 2:02:57: How Does the Average Marathoner Relate?

Written by Dena Evans

385The recently held Berlin Marathon lived up to its potential for fast times and then some, with Dennis Kimetto shattering the existing world marathon record by 26 seconds and becoming the first human being under 2 hours and 3 minutes.   If you are keeping score, that is an average pace of 4:41 per mile, or essentially the equivalent of running 105 laps around a track and hitting 70 seconds on each one.


Performances like this can seem so many light years away that the average athlete may feel that they can barely relate.  Yes, Kimetto covered 26.2 miles in an amazingly fast time, but looking beneath the surface, races like his can yield connections that can encourage us all, even if we are in the middle or the back of the pack.


  1. 1. It took the encouragement of a mentor for Kimetto to give running a serious try. Kimetto runs with many-time marathon winner Geoffrey Mutai in Kenya.  As detailed in the Chicago Tribune, Kimetto was a subsistence farmer who Mutai invited to train after basically seeing him lope through the streets with a good looking stride.  Many of us didn’t come out of the womb destined for marathoning.  A key health issue or charity push, the desire to accompany a friend or relative, or a life transition may have caused us to finally shift into action.   If you are new to the sport or don’t have a lot of athletic experience, console yourself that before 2008, neither did the world record holder, and he still believed in himself enough to aspire to big goals.


  1. 2. Sometimes big goals come as the result of a steady progression. Dennis Kimetto has run several marathons before, and has had a lot of success, but he certainly didn’t break the world record on his first try.  He ran 2:04 in 2012, 2:03 in 2013, and has now run 2:02 in 2014.  While obviously this is WAY easier said than done, his accomplishment is the result of steady improvement.  Sometimes we can benefit from setting a target fairly far away on the horizon, and committing to small or medium length intermediate goals along the way, even if the journey is several years in the making.  The sense of accomplishment then comes from achieving the goals and for having the courage to be patient and persistence on the road there.


  1. 3. A Personal Best is Personal – no one sets your goals except you. Dennis Kimetto could be forgiven for thinking he hard run the fastest he ever might – after all, he just ran the fastest time in all of history. However, in a feature article from the IAAF, he is quoted as saying “Actually, I think I could still be a very good runner 10 years from now, at 40.”  No one has the right to set boundaries on your belief.  When training, it is important to know your capabilities so you can make smart choices, but you have the right to make a goal for yourself, completely independent of arbitrary standards such as Boston, your personal best, etc.  What is important now is that you uphold and aspire to the standards and capability that you believe you have – not what society or the media might label as outside of the norm.

  1. 4. Keep it simple in the race

The Berlin marathon benefitted from the mano a mano duel Kimetto  staged with his mentor Geoffrey Mutai.  Although we aren’t yet  looking for Must See TV or world fame with our distance exploits, having a complicated race plan can sometimes add more stress than it is worth.   Some top quality races have huge fields of aspiring world class athletes, but the race may become strategic as a result.  If a fantastic time is the goal, nothing beats an old fashioned foot race with one or two people.  The mind can’t drift and so stays alert, and the athlete is able to race at the optimum pace indicated by training.  Toward the end you can race for the finish, but until then remind yourself of your confidence, tell the truth about your training log, and wait patiently for your turn.