Geoffrey Mutai Should Have the World Record in the Marathon

Geoffrey Mutai of Kenya won the Boston Marathon on Monday and crushed the world record. (I also ran in it – 49 minutes slower – oofa). But the IAAF won’t recognize it because on the aggregate the course is downhill and a straight line. The strong tailwind on Monday was legal. The IAAF’s rules are:

  • “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.”[2]
  • “The decrease in elevation between the start and finish shall not exceed an average of one in a thousand, i.e. 1m per km.”[2] 

Saying the Boston Marathon is downhill and so cannot count for a world record breezes over the 1/3 of it that’s miles of rolling hills. Berlin, where the record was broken last, is a flat course picked for its absolute flatness to help Gebrselassie beat the record. Which is more honest?

A flat course is easier than a hilly course, even if you do go downhill on the aggregate. I don’t know of one runner who would say, “jeez that uphill and downhill was a lot easier than 0% grade.” It’s not like the Boston course starts a mile up, heads straight down, and you finish at sea level.

While I understand the IAAF’s desire to enforce course consistency, the Boston Marathon hasn’t been as fast as the flat alternatives like Berlin because it is harder, even though it breaks IAAF rules. As far as I’m concerned, the marathon record is now 2:03:02. We’re closing in!

“Nobody will ever run a four-minute mile,” says a character in John L. Parker Jr’s Again to Carthage.  “Physically can’t be done.  You can’t drive a golf ball 300 yards. Never happen.  No one can throw a hundred-mile-an-hour fast ball and no one can hit it out of the stadium. All of it is beyond human capacity.” Underbelly

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