Another step toward a two-hour marathon
This is an update to an analysis I run each time the marathon world record is broken. If you like this sort of thing, you will like my forthcoming book, Probably Overthinking It, which is available for preorder now.
On October 8, 2023, Kelvin Kiptum ran the Chicago Marathon in 2:00:35, breaking by 34 seconds the record set last year by Eliud Kipchoge -- and taking another big step in the progression toward a two-hour marathon.
In a previous article, I noted that the marathon record speed since 1970 has been progressing linearly over time, and I proposed a model that explains why we might expect it to continue. Based on a linear extrapolation of the data so far, I predicted that someone would break the two hour barrier in 2036, plus or minus five years.
Now it is time to update my predictions in light of the new record. The following figure shows the progression of world record speed since 1970 (orange dots), a linear fit to the data (green line) and a 90% predictive confidence interval (shaded area).
This model predicts that we will see a two-hour marathon in 2033 plus or minus 6 years.
However, it looks more and more like the slope of the line has changed since 1998. If we consider only data since then, we get the following prediction:
This model predicts a two hour marathon in 2032 plus or minus 5 years. But with the last three points above the long-term trend, and with two active runners knocking on the door, I would bet on the early end of that range.
UPDATE: Someone asked if the Nike Vaporfly is responsible for the recent acceleration is the world record progression. Well, they were introduced in 2017 (vertical line below), and all three new records were set by people wearing them.
Sure looks like it.