Marathon World Records (men)
Only recently has the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) officially ratified a 'world record' in the marathon event. Prior to that 'world bests' were listed, and even earlier to that there was no official listing of best times. Actually, early marathon events varied in distance, with the official standardized length of a marathon of 42,195 meters (or 26 miles and 385 yards) being set 28 years after the first marathon in 1896. The official marathon distance corresponds to the length of the marathon event at the 1908 London Olympic Games.
Over the years the distance claimed for some courses have later been shown to be incorrect, and advantages of wind and downhill gradients have greatly assisted some times. In recent years, the IAAF has set guidelines for a record to be set, such as "The start and finish points of a course, measured along a theoretical straight line between them, shall not be further apart than 50% of the race distance.", and that "The decrease in elevation between the start and finish shall not exceed an average of one in a thousand, i.e. 1m per km.". These criteria allow for point to point courses as long as they satisfy these conditions, though there are some who are pushing to only recognize out and back courses.
Will an athlete ever run under two hours?
I don't think an official sub-2 hour marathon will happen without assistance for quite a while (see our poll about it). Runners are getting closer. In the 2018 Berlin marathon, Eliud Kipchoge, the 2016 Olympic marathon champion from Kenya, set a new marathon world record with a time of two hours, one minute 39 seconds, taking more than a minute off the previous best. In the precious year, he ran a faster marathon in 2 hours 25 seconds, though this was a staged event by Nike which included a pace-setter and assistive technologies (and wearing vaporflys). In 2019, there was another staged marathon, the Ineos 1:59 Challenge, and this time he was successful in breaking the two hour barrier (1:59:40), though because of various assistances, it is not a IAAF ratified world record. Specifically, it was not an open event, he was handed fluids by a team coordinator on bicycle, the run featured a pace car which projected a laser to the ground in front of him to mark the desired pace, and included rotating teams of pacers running in a 'V' formation designed to reduce wind resistance.
The current women's world record is by Kenya's Mary Jepkosgei Keitany, who ran 2:17:01 in the 2017 London marathon, though UK's Paula Radcliffe ran a faster marathon time of 2:15:25 ion April 13, 2003 in a mixed gender race (which is not eligible as a world record due to possible pacing).
Below is the men's marathon running world record evolution (the more recent best times listed first), showing only those times that have been officially listed by the IAAF.
|2:01:39||Sept 16, 2018||Eliud Kipchoge||Kenya||Berlin Marathon|
|2:02:57||Sept 28, 2014||Dennis Kimetto||Kenya||Berlin Marathon|
|2:03:23||Sept 29, 2013||Wilson Kipsang||Kenya||Berlin Marathon|
|2:03:38||Sept 25, 2011||Patrick Makau||Kenya||Berlin Marathon|
|2:03:59||Sept 28, 2008||Haile Gebrselassie||Ethiopia||Berlin Marathon|
|2:04:26||Sept 30, 2007||Haile Gebrselassie||Ethiopia||Berlin Marathon|
|2:04:55||Sept 28, 2003||Paul Tergat||Kenya||Berlin Marathon|
|2:05:38||April 14, 2002||Khalid Khannouchi||USA||London Marathon|
|2:05:42||Oct 24, 1999||Khalid Khannouchi||Morocco||Chicago Marathon|
|2:06:05||Sept 20, 1998||Ronaldo da Costa||Brazil||Berlin Marathon|
|2:06:50||April 17, 1988||Belayneh Dinsamo||Ethiopia||Rotterdam Marathon|
|2:07:12||April 20, 1985||Carlos Lopes||Portugal||Rotterdam Marathon|
|2:08:05||Oct 21, 1984||Steve Jones||UK||Chicago Marathon|
|2:08:18||Dec 6, 1981||Robert De Castella||Australia||Fukuoka Marathon, Japan|
|2:08:33.60||May 30, 1969||Derek Clayton||Australia||Antwerp, Belgium|
|2:09:36.40||Dec 3, 1967||Derek Clayton||Australia||Fukuoka Marathon, Japan|
|2:12:00||June 12, 1965||Morio Shigematsu||Japan||Polytechnic Marathon|
|2:12:12.20||Oct 21, 1964||Abebe Bikila||Ethiopia||Tokyo, Japan|
|2:13:55||June 13, 1964||Basil Heatley||UK||Polytechnic Marathon|
|2:14:28||June 15, 1963||Leonard Edelen||USA||Polytechnic Marathon|
|2:15:15.80||Feb 17, 1963||Toru Terasawa||Japan||Beppu-Ōita Marathon, Japan|
|2:15:16.20||Sept 10, 1960||Abebe Bikila||Ethiopia||Rome, Italy|
|2:15:17.00||Aug 24, 1958||Sergei Popov||USSR||Stockholm, Sweden|
|2:17:39.40||June 26, 1954||Jim Peters||UK||Polytechnic Marathon|
|2:18:34.80||Oct 4, 1953||Jim Peters||UK||Turku Marathon|
|2:18:40.40||June 13, 1953||Jim Peters||UK||Polytechnic Marathon|
|2:20:42.20||June 14, 1952||Jim Peters||UK||Polytechnic Marathon|
|2:25:39||April 19, 1947||Suh Yun-bok||South Korea||Boston Marathon|
|2:26:42||Nov 3, 1935||Son Kitei||Japan||Tokyo, Japan|
|2:26:44.00||April 3, 1935||Yasuo Ikenaka||Japan||Tokyo, Japan|
|2:27:49.00||Mar 31, 1935||Fusashige Suzuki||Japan||Tokyo, Japan|
|2:29:01.80||Oct 12, 1925||Albert Michelsen||USA||Port Chester, USA|
|2:32:35.80||Aug 22, 1920||Hannes Kolehmainen||Finland||Antwerp, Belgium|
|2:36:06.60||May 31, 1913||Alexis Ahlgren||Sweden||Polytechnic Marathon|
|2:38:16.20||May 12, 1913||Harry Green||UK||Polytechnic Marathon|
|2:40:34.20||Aug 31, 1909||Thure Johansson||Sweden||Stockholm, Sweden|
|2:42:31.00||May 26, 1909||Henry Barrett||UK||Polytechnic Marathon|
|2:46:04.60||May 8, 1909||Albert Raines||USA||New York City, USA|
|2:46:52.80||Feb 12, 1909||James Clark||USA||New York City, USA|
|2:52:45.40||Jan 1, 1909||Robert Fowler||USA||Yonkers, USA|
|2:55:18.40||July 24, 1908||Johnny Hayes||USA||London|
- Major marathon races from around the world
- More Athletics Records
- Other sports and fitness records
- Poll: Which record time will be broken next—100m or marathon?
- Sub 2-hour marathon blog post