Stunning Statistics Reveal New Marathon Revolution

  • By Duncan Larkin
  • Published Nov. 2, 2011
  • Updated Nov. 2, 2011 at 10:00 AM UTC
Kenya continues to lead the way in the new marathon "revolution". Photo: Fitness Depot

Top times really started dropping three years ago.

Kenya continues to lead the way in the new marathon "revolution". Photo: Fitness Depot

Seeing the incredible performances in the marathon this year makes one ponder the following question: is the famous 26.2-mile running event in the middle of an unprecedented revolution?

According to a new report posted on The Science of the Sport’s Web site, the answer is a resounding “yes”.

Comparing performances since 2001, it’s evident that the “revolution” kicked in about three years ago.

The study has found that the average time of the top-10 men since 2009 has been 20 seconds faster than Khalid Khannouchi’s 2002 world record of 2:05:38.

“This exceptional increase in quality has been accompanied by a huge growth in depth–the cumulative number of sub-2:07 performers in 2009, 2010 and 2011 is greater than the preceding eight years,” write authors Jonathan Dugas and Ross Tucker.

Not surprisingly, the dominance is coming from East Africa–Kenya specifically.

“Marathon running has always been the domain of the east Africans,” the authors contend. “The only year in the above graph when east Africans did not dominate was 2001–back then, five out of the top 10 were Europeans.  However, every year since, Kenya have produced more than half of the top 20, with the bulk of the remaining places filled by Ethiopians.”

For More: The Science of Sport

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Duncan Larkin

Duncan Larkin

Duncan Larkin is the news editor at and a freelance journalist who’s been covering the sport of running for over five years. He’s run 2:32 in the marathon and won the Himalayan 100-Mile Stage Race in 2007. His first running book, RUN SIMPLE, was released last July.

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