You know how they alway say, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint”? Meaning, I guess, that sometimes you have to take the long view, live out life at a slower pace, be patient for the finish line.
Turns out, it is a sprint, after all.
The marathon, I mean, is a sprint after all. At least it is when you’re breaking the world record, like Wilson Kipsang. By the time I crawled out of bed last Sunday morning, Kipsang had already finished running the Berlin Marathon and shattered the world record in the process. Kipsang crossed the finish line in 2:03:23 … basically, he sprinted the entire course.
Kipsang, incredibly, ran an average pace of 4:42 per mile. The fastest race I’ve ever run was an average 6:40 pace in a recent 5K. After crossing the finish line, I immediately barfed behind the closest trash bin. There was one proud moment when I ran faster than a 6-minute mile … while going downhill.
I can’t even imagine running a 4:42 mile, though I understand a few folks do run sub-4-minute miles. When all they have to run is a single mile. Kipsang ran a 4:42 pace, for …
Twenty. Six. Point. Freaking. Two. Miles.
As Mark Remy writes: “a speed that most of us could achieve only by Rollerblading on one of those moving walkways like they have at airports, while also wearing a Wile E. Coyote-style rocket strapped to our backs, assuming that we could get all of it through security.”
The prior record, coincidentally, was also set at the Berlin Marathon (by another Kenyan, of course). Actually, this is the sixth time since 1998 that the marathon world record has been broken in Berlin. Next time I feel the urge to qualify for the Boston Marathon, I’ll keep that in mind.
Sadly, Kipsang’s grand achievement was marred by an idiot’s idiotic act of idiocey. As the New York Times reported:
Although security in Berlin had been increased after the bombings at the Boston Marathon in April, a man wearing a yellow T-shirt stepped out of the crowd near the finish line and raised his arms, breaking the tape just ahead of Kipsang in an apparent stunt of ambush marketing. According to Agence France-Presse, the man was promoting a Web site for an escort service. He was intercepted by race staff, handed over to the police and charged with trespassing, the news agency reported.
“Trespassing”? Is that the best they can do? He ruined Kipsang’s once-in-a-lifetime finish-line photo. This jerk deserves to be trampled by an angry horde of very slow marathon runners. I hope, in Germany, felony trespassing is punished by hard labor in prison. At the very least, he should be forced to clean up the millions of paper cups that were discarded along the marathon route, with a pair of tweezers.
Ross Tucker notes that Kipsang is “the latest in a very long line of exceptional Kenyan runners.” Why do East Africans — primarily, Kenyans, and primarily, Kenyans from a single tribe of about 4 million people — so totally dominate the sport of endurance running? Tucker speculates in “Kenyan Athletes Run Amok.”
Amby Burfoot at Runner’s World recently reported on a study that suggests one reason: They are really, really skinny.
So, the world record inches 15 seconds closer to the magical two hour mark. The experts tell us we’re a long way from seeing anyone break that barrier.
But the great thing about running is that the vast majority of us are not trying to break a world record .. we’re just trying to beat our own personal best. We’re not competing against each other … just trying to improve ourselves.
I’ll be awestruck every time some runner shaves a few seconds off the world record. But I’ll always feel more satisfaction over my own improvement and the successes of my running friends.