Boston Kreme: When is a World’s Best not a World Record?

Boston, Massachusetts is thousands of miles away from Manila, but the running highs that were set during the recent Boston Marathon were so contagious I can feel it all the way here!  The highlight of the event of course was the 2:03:02 time set by Kenya’s Geoffrey Mutai—the world’s fastest ever, but not the world record!

Yes, the world’s fastest marathon ever is not considered a “world record” by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the international governing body for the sport of athletics.  This is despite the fact that Boston Marathon has one of the most challenging courses in the world.  This is due to the fact that Boston Marathon’s route does not meet some of IAAF’s criteria for record eligibility:

  • The start and finish points of a course, measured along a theoretical straight line between them, shall not be further apart than 50% of the race distance.
  • The decrease in elevation between the start and finish shall not exceed an average of one in a thousand, i.e. 1m per km.

The first item automatically disqualifies all courses that are “point-to-point,” like in the case of Boston, to prevent the potential aid of a tailwind the entire distance, as it was with Mutai’s case.  For the second criterion, we could safely say that the maximum downhill permitted is about 24m, whereas Boston Marathon’s course is generally downhill, dropping by about 135m.

On the other hand, despite being generally downhills (which really beats up the quads), Boston has a series of four uphills between miles 16 and 21 of the course, including the infamous “Hearthbreak Hill,” that had often resulted in slower finish times than the other  World Marathon Majors races, Berlin, Chicago, and London, which are mostly flat.  Since Geoffrey Mutai’s feat is not (yet) officially considered as a world record, Haile Gebrselassie’s world record of 2:03:59 set in Berlin still stands.

More Treats

Aside from recording the fastest marathon ever, there were more records set during Boston.  This year’s runner-up, Moses Mosop, also of Kenya, finished the race “sub-Haile” just four seconds behind at 2:03:06.  The fastest American, Ryan Hall, finished fourth overall but was able to set a new American best at 2:04:58.  Over on the women’s side, Kenya was again dominant with the presence of Caroline Kilel, finishing with a time of 2:22:36.  Her runner-up, Desiree Davila, merely two seconds behind, set the American best marathon time for women at 2:22:38.

World Record versus World Best

While Mutai’s feat is not considered a World Record by the IAAF, it is considered as a World Best.   Apparently, a course had to be eligible for a record before a World Record can be set, and for everywhere else, it’s “just” a “Best.”

Since there are only quite a few sanctioned race and routes here in the Philippines, should we reconsider the use of the term “Personal Bests” (PBs) over “Personal Records” (PRs)?  Is it time to replace the “R” with a “B?”  For what it’s worth, I’ve actually started using the term “Personal Bests” for about a year now on my logs without realizing that it could be the more “politically correct” term.

Personally I know of only one IAAF / AIMS-certified course in the Philippines and that’s the CamSur Marathon (including all its shorter race routes) so if you want to set an IAAF-certified PR, that’s where you should set it.

* * *

I may never be as fast or even remotely close to the speed of these athletes but I still dream that one day I’d be able to join Boston Marathon.  If you aim to qualify for Boston’s stringent requirements, here are the new qualifying standards effective 2013:

Boston Marathon
Qualifying Standards

(effective for 2013 race)
Age Men Women
18–34 3hrs 5min 3 hrs 35min
35–39 3hrs 10min 3 hrs 40min
40–44 3hrs 15min 3 hrs 45min
45–49 3hrs 25min 3 hrs 55min
50–54 3hrs 30min 4 hrs 0min
55–59 3hrs 40min 4 hrs 10min
60–64 3hrs 55min 4 hrs 25min
65–69 4hrs 10min 4 hrs 40min
70–74 4hrs 25min 4 hrs 55min
75–79 4hrs 40min 5 hrs 10min
80+ 4hrs 55min 5 hrs 25min

Note that you must meet the prescribed time in a certified course, and if you do manage that you must watch for the opening of the registration as in 2010, all 20,000 spots reserved for qualifiers were filled in eight hours and three minutes!

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Roelle says:

    You mean I need to run a 3:10 full marathon?! Actually my PB is 2:14 (for a half-mary, hehehe).


    1. dhenztm says:

      My problem exactly… Oh well maybe if I live to 80 😀


  2. Jerald Fenske says:

    Great post, I couldn’t agree more! By those standards, the Paavo Nurmi Marathon I run up in Hurley Wisconsin each August wouldn’t qualify for a world record either! It is a point to point race which is actually more challenging than Boston. Since that is the only marathon I am running these days, I guess my dreams of setting a new world record have been dashed!

    Take care and happy running. -Jerald Fenske


    1. dhenztm says:

      Thanks Jerald! I guess you really do have to find another place for that record–but regardless of the place a record is still a record, albeit may only be considered a “best” 🙂


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