Dr. David Martin, a statistician with The Association of International Marathons (AIM), has predicted that, if the world record times for marathons continue to improve at the present rate, the 2 hour marathon will be shattered as early as 2015 (source Running Room Magazine, p.8, January/ February, 2009).
The doubters said that Haile Gebrselassie's 2.04.26 marathon achieved on September 30, 2007 was the height of human endurance and to go faster was simply impossible.
Fast forward to September 28, 2008 when Haile shattered his own record with a time of 2.03.59, a full 27 seconds better than his previous world time. His pace? A staggering 4.44 m/m average pace! Haile won the AIM's prestigious Fastest Time Award, twice, back to back, in the space of 12 months! An achievement AIM president, Hiroaki Chosa, called "astonishing". Regrettably, Haile was unable to beat his record in Dubai on January 18, 2009, missing a $1 000 000 incentive offered by the Dubai government to break his own record. He did, however, manage to take home a cool $250 000 prize for winning the race.
For a point of reference, Paul Tergat (Kenya) was the first person to break the 2.05 marathon in 2003, a record he held until 2008, and John Haynes (USA) set the world record in 1908 with a marathon time of 2.55.18. The point is records are states of mind. The doubters say, "no, never", and the dreamers say "yes, maybe tomorrow, maybe me".
On May 6, 1954 another record, equally daunting as the 1.59.59 marathon, was set. At the time the 4 minute mile was deemed impossible. Medical experts of the day claimed the heart would "explode" and to subject the human body to that much stress was "tantamount to suicide". Similar to the 1.59.59 marathon, the 4 minute mile captured the imagination of the world. The pundits predicted that, if it were possible, the conditions would need to be ideal and the audience would need to be huge to spur the runner to achieving the impossible 4-minute mile.
On a wet, windy day, with poor conditions and small crowds, Roger Bannister, from Oxford England, ran a 4 minute mile. He achieved the impossible because he believed no barrier existed. His achievement was received world wide as though the impossible had been achieved, and indeed it had.
After smashing the 2 hour, 5 minute marathon in 2003, Paul Tergat suggested we are getting close to the limit of marathon speed. He said "I believe that records are set to be broken and to fall lower is possible, but what remains impossible is running a marathon in under two hours.’ Then, with a smile, he added: "Maybe time will chide me."
A sub 2 hour marathon in my life time? I say yes!
A sub 4 hour marathon for me in 2009? I say, with focus and training, yes!
To dream. To achieve. To accomplish the impossible.
Happy training. Dream on!
Oh, one other thing, the pace needed to break 2 hours? An average of 4:33.8 minute/ miles.