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Marathon World Records (men)

Only since this century 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 current and 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 marathon courses.

marathon runners marathon runners

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.

Time Date Athlete Country Marathon Event
2:01:09 Sept 25, 2022 Eliud Kipchoge Kenya Berlin Marathon
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

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