What does it take to run a marathon in under 2 hours?

On October 12th 2019, we witnessed Eliud Kipchoge run the first ever marathon in under 2 hours

What does it take to run a marathon in under 2 hours?

This incredible feat was run at an average pace of 2:50 per kilometre (4:34 per mile).

Runners starting a race

Kipchoge at the 2015 Berlin Marathon.


To give some context to how fast that is, at his average pace, this is how long it would take to cover the following common race distances:

Distance Time
100 Metres 00:17
200 Metres 00:34
400 Metres 01:08
800 Metres 02:16
1500 Metres 04:15
1 Mile 04:34
2 Miles 09:07
5k 14:10
5 Miles 22:48
10k 28:20
10 Miles 45:36
Half Marathon 59:47

That means a 2-hour marathon is like running over eight 5k’s, back to back, in 14 minutes and 10 seconds each. That's a fast 5k in itself without it being just a small part of the run.

Related: Pace Converter.

This tweet from parkrun helps put Kipchoge's effort into perspective, of those eight 5k's he ran today, only five parkruns have ever been faster!

Official 5k Splits

Distance Time Split
5km 00:14:10 14:10
10km 00:28:20 14:10
15km 00:42:34 14:14
20km 00:56:47 14:13
25km 01:10:59 14:12
30km 01:25:11 14:12
35km 01:39:23 14:12

There was a pace car driving throughout the run until the last 2km that was marking the target pace on the road via a laser so it’s no surprise that split times were as consistent as just 4 seconds difference per 5k between fastest and slowest splits, but keeping up with it on foot is an incredible achievement and is truly a landmark moment in distance running.

Not a record

But this isn’t considered a world record for a few reasons, firstly it wasn’t run in an officially sanctioned race, this event was staged for this record attempt and a race with a single participant isn’t eligible for records. Other operational reasons it can’t be a record are due to pacemaker groups switching in and out and drinks being handed to Eliud from bike riders rather than them being picked up from a table.

But this was never about records, it was about proving that running a marathon in under two hours is humanly possible right now.

So, the official marathon world record stays with Eliud’s own run of 2:01:39 at the Berlin Marathon in 2018.

If you put any value in age grading tables and scores, this would be an age graded score of 103.2% which isn’t that surprising really as this was run at above world record pace.

Read More: Age grading.

The question now becomes when will someone manage this during a race?