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The following essay is adapted with permission from the new book, “1:59: The Sub-Two-Hour Marathon Is Within Reach—Here’s How It Will Go Down, and What It Can Teach All Runners about Training and Racing.”
Although it might seem entirely incredulous to most runners—even fast, high-level runners—the 2-hour marathon barrier will definitely be broken. There is widespread consensus in the running community, including coaches, exercise researchers and elite marathoners, that a 1:59 marathon is entirely possible.
Where opinions differ, however, is when it will occur. Many close to the sport believe it will be in the next decade or perhaps longer that the current world record of 2:03:23 goes to 1:59:59 or faster. Others maintain that the record won’t take place in our lifetime. I am much more optimistic—I truly believe a 1:59 will be recorded within the next several years. Why am I so confident? Because the advancements in training, how elite runners race the marathon and several other factors will make this great athletic leap possible.
What will it take to break the 2-hour barrier? This amazing accomplishment will require raw talent, optimal body size and the right kind of athletic genes, but it will require much more too. Here’s a look at some of the training and racing factors in greater detail.