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April 23, 2017

Mary Keitany breaks women’s-only marathon world record, proves us wrong

This post easily could’ve been a food review because we’re eating crow right now.

Just a few days ago, we were in the camp that believed no one was going to touch Paula Radcliffe’s women’s-only marathon world record.

Mary Keitany proved us wrong as she won her third London Marathon title in 2:17:01. It was an incredible race to watch as she took the lead from the gun, settled behind the pacer and never let up. She slowed but that’s what happens when you go out in 15:31 and then hit the half in 1:06:54 before finishing in 1:10:07. It was a positive split but still finished under the previous world record. Keitany remained under 2:15:25 pace through 30K and the conversation soon after crossing the finish line shifted to the overall world record.

Let’s appreciate this record first. Keitany is 35 years old. She’s a mother of two. She was left off the Kenyan Olympic team and then won her third New York City Marathon.The 26.2 mile distance is one that can humble titans and yet she’s been a force on the marathon scene since took third at the 2010 New York City Marathon and then ran 2:19:19 for her first London Marathon victory in 2011. That’s seven years at the highest level of the sport.

The second-half struggle bus

Heleah Kiprop was on pace to break 2:20 and then just faded…hard. She was with the chase pack of women that crossed the half in 67:53 and then crashed to a 77:46 for the second half. That’s not fun.

Tireunesh Dibaba, who finished second in 2:17:56 to become just the third woman under 2:18 suffered major cramping or stomach issued coming out of a tunnel and into the final mile. She stopped for a few seconds to collect herself and then powered on.

The thought of a Keitany blow up would subconsciously creep up throughout the second half. At the 2011 New York City Marathon, she ran 67:56 and then took third in 2:23:38. Today, she clocked a 66:54 and held up. Coach Gabriele Nicola must’ve found something in her training that worked.

Kudos to the rabbit

Today must’ve been interesting for Caroline Chepkoech, who was recruited to pace the women’s race and ended up guiding Keitany just halfway before dropping out. Taking a look at some of her personal bests before Sunday, it appears that Chepkoech notched a 10K road personal best of 31:17 and added a 47:15 15K and 63:26 20K mark to her resume. Not a bad day to get paid to not run 26.2 and still have a great showing.


Laura Thweatt, who made her marathon debut at the 2015 New York City Marathon and then did not run the Olympic Marathon Trials to focus on the track, shaved about three minutes from her personal best and worked her way past the slowing East Africans for sixth in 2:25:38.

So after London and Boston, the sub-2:26 U.S. Women’s Marathon now looks like this:

Deena Kastor 2:19:36

Shalane Flanagan 2:21:14

Joan Benoit 2:21:21

Desiree Linden 2:22:38

Jordan Hasay 2:23:00

Kara Goucher 2:24:52

Laura Thweatt 2:25:15

And if you still don’t know much about Laura Thweatt, educate yourself with this great story by our buddy Mitch Kastoff. 

Looking ahead

Maybe with perfect pacing and cool conditions on a course like Chicago or Berlin, she could get faster. Unless you’re Meb Keflezighi or Bernard Lagat, age certainly plays a factor into performance. It’s certainly not the last that you’ll hear of Keitany’s run and the “What If” scenarios that likes to be played out in track. The bar is also set for Nike and the Breaking2 project. Keitany was wearing Adidas Takumi Sen kicks for her race and did something special in a real marathon. If they’re pulling out all the stops with pacers, a special course, nifty footwear and super drinks then they better at least come close.

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