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What are the fastest marathons ever run and has the 2 hour barrier been broken?


Marathon world records, Kelvin Kiptum

Kenyan marathon superstar Eliud Kipchoge has certainly helped put long distance running increasingly on the map in recent years; he’s been breaking records and also breaking the internet.

The sport has never enjoyed more mainstream cut through than in recent times.

But his world record stranglehold has now been ended, as of October 2023. That’s in spite of the fact that the 38-year-old hasn’t shown much sign of decline. It comes just one month after the women’s division got a major shakeup as well.

Ethiopean rising star Tigist Assefa recently claimed a big chunk of the long distance running limelight. Assefa recently cleared a new mark in the women’s category, after only shifting focus to that distance in April 2022.

The marathon, one of the Olympics’ signature events, is in phenomenal hands right now and will undoubtedly remain front of focus in the athletics world.

Berlin marathon world record, Tigist Assefa
Tigist Assefa breaks new ground in the women’s category.

The boundaries continue being pushed and there’s no doubt it’s contributing to the sport’s renaissance.

Kipchoge has run the fastest marathon we’ve ever seen, but it wasn’t in an official race. And for the time being, he’s had to relinquish his crown in the 26.2 mile race.

So here are the details in relation to the marathon’s fastest ever recorded runs.

Fastest ever marathons: Men’s and Women’s

There’s a constant, when it comes to both the men’s and women’s marathon world records: the Berlin Marathon. It’s an incredibly fast event; flat and relatively straight. And in recent years, it’s seen played host to record-setting runs. Five of the top six official best men’s runs are all in Germany’s capital.

Men’s world record marathon

2:00:35 | Kelvin Kiptum, Kenya | Chicago, 2023

What a run. Cool and cloudy conditions allowed for a truly cracking pace to be set in Chicago, where Kelvin Kiptum recorded the fastest ever marathon in an official race. He broke Kipchoge’s mark by 34 seconds.

marathon world record, kelvin kiptum

PREVIOUS RECORD: 2:01:09 | Eliud Kipchoge, Kenya | Berlin, 2022

In 2022, Kipchoge shaved another 30 seconds off his own world record in Berlin. The widely renowned GOAT of long distance running also claimed line honours at the same event in 2023, but couldn’t take any more time off his 2022 effort — he ran a 2:02.42, a record fifth win at the German Major.

What about Kipchoge’s sub-two hour effort?

It is correct that Eliud Kipchoge has also incredibly broken the two hour barrier across 26.2 miles, although that was not in an officially ratified race event.

As a 37-year-old, the Kenyan star famously ran a 1:59:40 in Vienna, Austria. But that was in a controlled, non-race environment.

Kipchoge world record, berlin marathon 2022
Eliud Kipchoge breaks his own world record in Berlin, 2022.

Women’s world record marathon

2:11:53 | Tigist Assefa, Ethiopia | Berlin, 2023

at just 26, Assefa sensationally clocked under 2 hours and 12 minutes in the women’s category and sliced more than two minutes off the previous best. Unbelievable.

The run smashed the previous record of 2:14.04 — set by Kenya’s Brigid Kosgei in Chicago, 2019.

The rise of running

There is no doubt that running is an activity on the rise; there are growing participants all around the world.

It’s an accessible hobby, with all kinds of benefits, and it doesn’t have to be expensive (though it certainly can be if you’re addicted to new shoes!).

Running a marathon has never seemed more achievable, as publicity has risen and more people share their stories.

And the impact of superstars like Kipchoge and Assefa cannot be understated, as they continue to inspire more and more people to dust off the joggers and search for the closest running club.

There’s no question Sydney’s looking to cash in on growing interest, as it pushes to become the newest Abbotts Major over the next couple of years. Read more about it here.

Ultra trail events Australia

The rise of trail running

And for the growing chorus of budding trail runners, find your next adventure right here, as we outline the 15 best annual trail events in Australia.

Picture of Phil Prior
Phil Prior
Phil is the editorial lead at Only Sports, bringing more than 12 years of wide-ranging sports media experience to the team. But it’s his unrivalled passion that sets him apart. He also commentates AFL on SEN Radio, plus Rugby on Stan Sport. Find Phil on LinkedIn.

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