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Why Mutai time, fastest in history, isn’t world record

Tuesday April 19 2011

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 18: Geoffrey Mutai #2 of Kenya holds the trophy after winning the men's division of the 115th running of the Boston Marathon on April 18, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 18: Geoffrey Mutai #2 of Kenya holds the trophy after winning the men's division of the 115th running of the Boston Marathon on April 18, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts 

Boston

With a brisk wind at his back and a determined countryman on his shoulder to push him down the stretch, Kenya’s Geoffrey Mutai pulled away from Moses Mosop in the final quarter-mile Monday to win the 115th Boston Marathon.

His time, 2 hours 3 minutes 2 seconds, was the fastest marathon run by nearly a minute, and it smashed the course record, set last year, by nearly three minutes.

Mutai, running the hilly 26.2-mile course for the first time and in ideal conditions, beat the internationally recognised world record, 2:03:59, set in September 2008 in Berlin by Ethiopia’s Haile Gebrselassie, who benefited from having pacesetters. Boston does not allow pacesetters.

The time is not considered a world record, however, because the Boston course is not sanctioned as being record-eligible by the International Association of Athletics Federations, track and field’s world governing body.

IAAF rules state that marathon records must be set on what is considered a loop course instead of a point-to-point course, meaning that the starting and finish lines cannot be farther apart than 50 percent of the race distance, or 13.1 miles.

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The Boston course starts in Hopkinton, 26.2 miles from the finish.

Enthralling fashion

Times in races on point-to-point courses, even difficult rolling ones like Boston’s, can be significantly affected by a tail wind, which was the case Monday, when the wind was blowing 15 to 20 miles per hour.

Another factor working against Boston is that the overall decrease in elevation from the start to the finish cannot exceed one meter per kilometer, which comes out to about 138 feet. The Boston course drops about 470 feet.

In Monday’s women’s race, Kenya’s Caroline Kilel, also making her Boston debut, won in equally enthralling fashion, outlasting the American Desiree Davila to record a two-second victory in 2:22:36. Davila’s time was the fastest ever run by an American woman in Boston.

Experienced marathoner

The winners received $150,000. Mutai received an additional $75,000 for setting a course record ($25,000) and for posting a world best ($50,000) Tom Grilk, the executive director of the Boston Athletic Association, which sponsors the race, called Mutai’s performance “a once-in-a-lifetime moment.” Grilk added, “No one could have predicted that a time like that would be run.”

A Kenyan has won the men’s race in five of the last six years. This year, it was a case of an experienced marathoner, Mutai, fending off Mosop, a marathoning rookie whose specialty had been half-marathons.

Mutai, 29, pulled away from a pack of eight in the Newton hills, only to be chased down by Mosop in the final few miles.

“When I am alone, I control my pace,” Mutai said. “When somebody comes back to me, I lose my momentum.”

The two were shoulder to shoulder at the 24-mile mark. In the end, Mutai had just enough to outlast his countryman, who nonetheless ran the second-fastest marathon ever in his first competitive race at that distance. The four-second victory margin matched the seventh closest in the race’s history.

“I see this as a gift from God,” Mutai said. “I don’t have more words to add.” (Agencies)

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