Running Events

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Will the Sub-Two-Hour Marathon Change Races on the Hometown Level?

16 Oct, 2019

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

It finally happened. One man has run the full marathon distance in less than two hours. No, it wasn’t a major marathon and yes, it was under controlled conditions. But Eliud Kipchoge’s 1:59:40.2 time for 26.2 miles in Vienna is going to be enough to awaken interest in distance running – and to remind former track-and-field athletes that they too, can strive for personal bests.

Oh, and within the same week, Kenya's Brigid Kosgei shattered the world record (on an actual marathon course), cming in at 2:14:40 at the Chicago Marathon.

And both those occurrences mean that event owners should be ready.

It’s not the fact that marathons – even those in major cities – are expected to have people toeing the start line, hoping to break Kipchoge’s record, it’s the knowledge that anyone can accomplish what was previously thought to be impossible – and that just might spur plenty to try for a personal best. And in many cases, that personal best might mean getting back out on a course for the first time since high school or college.

In other words, whether you own a 5K or a marathon – or anything in between – get ready for the bucket listers.

There are already quite a few marathons – within the U.S. and outside it – that are considered must-do items to check off. And they might just surprise you. After all, the Paris Marathon was on there (no shock) but so was the Missoula Marathon.

Within home towns across the U.S., there are plenty of marathons – in fact, more than 150 are scheduled each week in the fall. And plenty of those marathons are running festivals, meaning they offer a variety of distances – 5K, 10, half marathons, full marathons and marathon relays, as well as novelty distances like children’s fun runs and even the .05 beer run offered by the Baltimore Running Festival.

So here’s the question: why not make a special ‘bucket list’ registration category in races, for people who have never tried before (or who haven’t made an attempt in years)? It could also be an excellent way of getting people into running-specific training programs, either independently or as sponsored by a local running store or event owner.

The ‘bounce’ effect has already been noted after events like the Olympics – when children immediately become interested in signing up for swimming, gymnastics, ice skating and other events. Even older children, such as those in high school, and even college students, have become interested in beach volleyball – something that has driven the sport to new heights of growth. It’s not too hard to imagine the sport of running can gain new interest – or even bring back those whose sneakers last touched a track in high school or college.

For Kipchoge, the attempt wasn’t just a number in a record book, according to the San Francisco Gate. In fact, Kipchoge said, his mission went beyond the realm of sports. He wanted, he noted, to inspire others to try what they might have previously considered impossible – if only to them.

"We can make this world a beautiful world and a peaceful world," he said. "The positivity of sport. I want to make it a clean sport and an interesting sport."

President Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta recognized the importance of the event and sent a message: "Hearty congratulations, Eliud Kipchoge. You've done it, you've made history and made Kenya proud. Your win today will inspire future generations to dream big and aspire to greatness."

Kosgei also noted the long-range positivity of a record. "It's amazing for me," she said. "I never believed that time. But I've seen 2:10 is possible for a lady to run if they are sure. During training, you must focus everything."

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