Dr. Joan Bushwell's Chimpanzee Refuge

New Marathon World Record

Well, running great Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopa broke Paul Tergat’s four-year-old marathon record of 2:04:55 at Berlin this morning with an amazing 2:04:26. Details here and here.

This works out to an average pace of 4:44.8 per mile or 2:56.9 per km over 26.2 miles (42.2 km). Geb’s sustained energy output is mind boggling compared to that of the average 34 year old (or just about any human runner for that matter).

Comments

  1. #1 Ahcuah
    September 30, 2007

    I inline-skate a lot. There’s a 13-mile bike path that I sometimes go to, so an up-and-back trip is just about a marathon.

    The best I’ve ever done it, skating, is 2:13 or so. For somebody to be able to run it faster is just totally, completely, mind-boggling.

  2. #2 fannie
    September 30, 2007

    Incredible! Perhaps humans will someday break the 2-hour barrier…??

  3. #3 JimFiore
    September 30, 2007

    The sub 2 hour is a major topic of discussion among marathoners. Some say never, others say definitely. You might find this to be a useful history: http://www.pponline.co.uk/encyc/marathon-world-record.html

  4. #4 PhysioProf
    September 30, 2007

    Any estimate as to how many watts power output he sustained? For the track cycling hour record, the estimated power output over the hour is about 450 watts. I guess it’s substantially less for the marathon record, since Gebs is a much smaller dude than the cyclists who are elite time trialers, and because it has to be sustained for about two hours.

  5. #5 fannie
    September 30, 2007

    jim,

    thanks for the link! historically, it seems as though many athletes and fans believed that the prime athletes of the day were very close to reaching human physiological/endurance limits- and these beliefs were later proven wrong as people broke old records. and yet, there HAS to be a limit somewhere….

    anyway, it’s just surreal to me that someone could run 26 consecutive sub-5 minute miles. back in my marathoning days I was more concerned about breaking the 3:30 barrier ;-)

  6. #6 JimFiore
    October 1, 2007

    PhysioProf: I don’t know what the output power is but I suspect your analysis is correct. Guys like Geb are almost waif-like. I remember standing next to John Korir of Kenya a few years back before a major race and I got the distinct impression that I could break one of his arms if I just looked at him cross-eyed.

    Fannie: I think the “We really can’t go much further” argument is commonly broken, but as you noted, there has to be an ultimate limit if we’re assuming an “all natural” competition (no drugs, genetic manipulation, mechanical add-ons, etc.). My experiences in competitive running leads me to believe that much of what we say is a physical limit is in fact a psychological one. As former marathon record holder Khalid Khannouchi said “You gotta believe”. That is, if you believe you can’t do it, you probably won’t. Of course, simply believing won’t make it so, but “getting your head straight” seems to be every bit as important a training tool as logging the miles, speed work, diet, etc.

    Oh, and 3:30 for a female marathoner ain’t bad at all! Until a few years ago no woman had broken 2:20. BTW, I recommend The Perfect Mile for a great read on the subject of athletic limits (in this case, the sub 4:00 mile back in the 1950s)

  7. #7 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    October 1, 2007

    I may have just won the “who can comment the most at the end” in a shameless attempt to get the 500,000th comment” race.

  8. #8 Gingerbaker
    October 1, 2007

    Haile Gebrselassie may be superhumanly fast at running marathons, but I hear he sucks in bed.

    And I didn’t just make that up. OK, I did.

  9. #9 Christian
    October 2, 2007

    What exactly does the word “natural” mean when the intentional actions of human beings are involved, Fannie? Is it “natural” to run marathons while timing oneself to improve one’s speed? :D

  10. #10 hopper3011
    October 2, 2007

    Is it “natural” to run marathons while timing oneself to improve one’s speed?
    Logic is not your friend, is it? “Timing oneself” does not improve “one’s speed” – timing is purely and simply a method for measuring any improvement.
    Would you please stop being a dick?

  11. #11 Christian
    October 2, 2007

    Hopper, the thread for flinging shit at me is over here, and I don’t think that Doc. Bushwell would appreciate your spreading this sort of shit onto the rest of the blog. I’m here by the Doc.’s invitation so save your territorial hooting for your own blog, if you have one.

    “[1] Timing oneself” does not improve “one’s speed”
    -[2] timing is purely and simply a method for measuring any improvement.

    Could someone with better communication skills please explain how Hopper’s statement [2] supports his statement [1]? It seems to me that measuring one’s improvement plays a part in many systematic efforts to improve one’s self, including increasing one’s speed.

    Is there actually a simple bright line test for distinguishing all that is “natural” from all that is “artificial”?

  12. #12 Christian
    October 2, 2007

    Hopper, the thread for flinging your droppings at me is over here, and I don’t think that Doc. Bushwell would appreciate your smearingthis onto the rest of the blog. I’m here by the Doc.’s invitation so save your territorial hooting for your own blog, if you have one.

    “[1] Timing oneself” does not improve “one’s speed”
    -[2] timing is purely and simply a method for measuring any improvement.

    Could someone with better communication skills please explain how Hopper’s statement [2] supports his statement [1]? It seems to me that measuring one’s improvement plays a part in many systematic efforts to improve one’s self, including increasing one’s speed.

    Is there actually a simple bright line test for distinguishing all that is “natural” from all that is “artificial”?

  13. #13 Dan Cardinale
    October 4, 2007

    I can’t imagine maintaining that pace for 26 miles…heck, I can barely do a minute slower once.

  14. #14 Christian
    October 4, 2007

    I said: What exactly does the word “natural” mean when the intentional actions of human beings are involved, Fannie? Is it “natural” to run marathons while timing oneself to improve one’s speed? :D

    Hopper replied: “[sophmoric insult] Timing oneself” does not improve “one’s speed” – timing is purely and simply a method for measuring any improvement. [sophmoric insult]“

    Humans often measure their improvement systematically as part of their efforts to improve. Measurement is, among other things, an improvement tool, including for improving one’s running speed. This is a good example of metacognition, which AFAIK is the central characteristic that distinguishes humans from other animals such as yourself, Hopper.

  15. #15 Christian
    October 4, 2007

    Another example of metacognition: some other animals use tools, but AFAIK, humans are the only animals to invent a tool whose primary purpose is to make other tools.

    Following that reasoning, it would not be surprising to discover another animal that used something we might call words, but it would be quite surprising to find another animal with a word for “word.”

  16. #16 JimFiore
    October 4, 2007

    I’ve got to agree with hopper on this one. As a competitive masters distance runner I would never say anything like “run marathons while timing oneself to improve one’s speed”. If you time yourself for a marathon you have simply determined how effective your training and racing have been. You can check pace while racing, but that’s not the same as “improving one’s speed”. It’s the workouts that improve you. I mean, racing is not at all like being late for an appointment so you drive like crazy while looking at your watch! This may be difficult for the non-competitive runner
    to understand, but “time” is often immaterial. What matters is “place”. It doesn’t really matter if I break the old course record at NY if someone finishes in front of me. If you watch a world championship or Olympic distance final, you will note that the winner is often well off of the current world record even if that runner is the current world record holder. In spite of this, the concept of a world record is of interest, and one that people understand on a very visceral level (“No one has ever done this before”).

    This timing/speed thing is a minor point though. I think the real issue is the “natural” part. When I (not fannie) said this I was referring to a non-aided effort. That is, humans running without contrivances. For example, I’m reasonably sure Geb could go under 2 hours given any of the following:

    1. An HGH/rEPO/whatever drug regimen during training.
    2. Performance-enhancing drugs during the marathon itself.
    3. Running directly behind a large electric vehicle that effectively blocks any headwind.
    4. Being followed by a vehicle with large fans creating a tailwind.

    I’m sure we can think of others. Although a watch is a “mechanical contrivance”, it can’t make you go faster. Now, some would ask whether or not running shoes are a contrivance as they’re not something you’re born with either. Generally, due to the fact that pretty much everyone in industrialized societies wears shoes and that you’re not running on a natural surface to begin with (asphalt usually) so some protection is warranted, the answer is no. The primary purpose of shoes is to protect your feet. Indeed, the added weight will tend to slow you down (and thus, why racing flats are so flimsy and light). It is worth noting though that there have been instances of specific shoe designs being disallowed in competitions because they included out-of-the-ordinary elements designed to aid in energy return upon impact, and thus, increase running economy.

  17. #17 Christian
    October 4, 2007

    “This timing/speed thing is a minor point though. I think the real issue is the “natural” part.”

    On that we agree.

    “It is worth noting though that there have been instances of specific shoe designs being disallowed in competitions because they included out-of-the-ordinary elements designed to aid in energy return upon impact, and thus, increase running economy.”

    I agree that point and other regulatory artifices of the competition worth noting. The artifice of the competitive rules helps protect and privilege that which is designated as “natural.”

    “The primary purpose of shoes is to protect your feet.”

    Generally, yes, but purpose is context-specific. I’m no marathon runner, Jim, but I find it difficult to believe that a group of competitive athletes aren’t intentionally choosing their shoes for the race with competitive purposes in mind. And given what we’ve seen about steroid use, etc., it seems to me that at least some of them would probably be willing to sacrifice long term protection for a competitive edge. In a race as long as a marathon, foot protection would provide a definite edge, would it not? But you’ve obviated those issues when you said:

    “I was referring to a non-aided effort.”

    I appreciate that clarification, Jim. But it also means that I’m off-topic, so I’ll look somewhere else to discuss the convoluted natural/artificial dichotomy.

    Thank you also for gently correcting my mistaken attribution, Jim. Sadly this is the second time in just ten weeks that I’ve had to apologize for misattributing another blogger’s statement to Fannie. If this keeps ocurring, I’ll consult an optomestrist about getting optical contrivances. :(

    I’m glad to be able to engage you and/or Fannie on a more scientific topic, because on the other thread, we seem to have gotten off on the wrong foot, if you’ll excuse the weak pun.

  18. #18 JimFiore
    October 4, 2007

    I find it difficult to believe that a group of competitive athletes aren’t intentionally choosing their shoes for the race with competitive purposes in mind.

    Of course they are, hence my comment about racing flats. The difference (with respect to your comment about steroids) is that racing flats don’t make you go faster, they simply don’t slow you down as much as normal trainers. With an appropriate natural surface and training on said surface, no shoes would be preferable to shoes. But we have roads and rocks and all that goes with them, and thus we accept shoes.

  19. #19 Christian
    October 4, 2007

    “With an appropriate natural surface and training on said surface”

    Training and selection of “appropriate” natural surfaces would be problematic if we were discussing the artificial/natural dichotomy, but you’ve clarified that this is all about what we “accept,” so we are agreed.

  20. #20 JimFiore
    October 4, 2007

    This isn’t a matter of something being acceptable just because a group says so (i.e., arbitrary restrictions). Further, I don’t think there would be a problem with an “appropriate” surface regarding artificial/natural. By “appropriate” I mean something like a field of short, dry grass, not a field of jagged rocks. Real grass, not astroturf.

    I would classify shoes as more of a passing nod to industrialized society; the fact that we no longer walk around barefoot and have the soft soles to prove it, the fact that we pave roads primarily for cars and trucks, not for runners.

    I should point out that there are no rules preventing people from racing barefoot. Most choose the opposite of your steroid scenario in that they will go with a shoe in order to protect their feet over the long haul. There have been a few notables who chose to run barefoot including former record holder Zola Budd of South Africa and Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia who famously won the 1960 Olympic marathon running through the streets of Rome unshod. Both Budd and Bikila trained barefoot of course.

    Bottom line: shoes do not make you faster, they only serve to protect the feet of those who do not train barefoot.

  21. #21 Christian
    October 4, 2007

    You’ve missed my point, but I’m going to let it go, because now that you’ve clarified what you meant, my point was off topic for this thread.

  22. #22 Ahcuah
    October 5, 2007

    I just want to point out that there is a small subset who actually do run marathons barefoot. Look here. There is also a Yahoogroup where they discuss technique, etc., here.

  23. #23 Adeel
    October 5, 2007

    2. Performance-enhancing drugs during the marathon itself.

    Jim, maybe I’m just not thinking clearly at this late hour, but what could you take during the marathon to improve performance?

  24. #24 hopper3011
    October 5, 2007

    Humans often measure their improvement systematically as part of their efforts to improve. Measurement is, among other things, an improvement tool, including for improving one’s running speed. This is a good example of metacognition, which AFAIK is the central characteristic that distinguishes humans from other animals such as yourself, Hopper.
    You and On Lawn are quite a pair, aren’t you.
    What you said, and what I replied to was: “Is it “natural” to run marathons while timing oneself to improve one’s speed?” Now you want to claim that I was wrong because you were referring to training, not racing. You might very well time yourself in order to improve during training, but if you are running in a marathon, you aren’t training, you are competing – in which environment you are using the watch as a tool of measurement, not improvement.
    Since you made the point about timing during races I was responding to that, please don’t try to claim I was referring to the use of a watch during training. It is unpleasant enough to have to deal with one person falsifying my argument, but you aren’t even very good at it.
    If I were you I’d practice your cognition before you moved on to metacognition – you have certainly failed to display any ability with the former.

  25. #25 hopper3011
    October 5, 2007

    Adeel:
    If you weren’t worried about drug tests, a line of coke would do it.

  26. #26 JimFiore
    October 5, 2007

    Yes, any number of stimulants could help. Another possibility is an infusion of red blood cells prior to the race (not a drug, but effective).

  27. #27 Christian
    October 5, 2007

    “Now you want to claim that I was wrong because you were referring to training, not racing.”

    On the contrary, if I were to say that you were “wrong,” that would imply that your utterance constituted some sort of relevant response to what I’d said. Really all I can do is wish I had a bannana to give you, and wish that you’d find someone else to interact with.

  28. #28 hopper3011
    October 7, 2007

    On the contrary, if I were to say that you were “wrong,” that would imply that your utterance constituted some sort of relevant response to what I’d said. Really all I can do is wish I had a bannana to give you, and wish that you’d find someone else to interact with.
    Is that the best you can do? You should have kept your mouth shut, loser.
    BTW, “banana” – if you want to fling insults it’s better if you aren’t a fucking illiterate.

  29. #29 sex shop
    December 22, 2007

    Haile Gebrselassie may be superhumanly fast at running marathons, but I hear he sucks in bed.

    And I didn’t just make that up. OK, I did.

  30. #30 kozmetik
    December 23, 2007

    As former marathon record holder Khalid Khannouchi said “You gotta believe”. That is, if you believe you can’t do it, you probably won’t. Of course, simply believing won’t make it so, but “getting your head straight” seems to be every bit as important a training tool as logging the miles, speed work, diet, etc.

  31. #31 sally
    December 31, 2007

    I can’t imagine maintaining that pace for 26 miles…heck, I can barely do a minute slower once.

  32. #32 feromon
    December 31, 2007

    it’s just surreal to me that someone could run 26 consecutive sub-5 minute miles. back in my marathoning days

  33. #33 Site Ekle
    January 5, 2008

    it would not be surprising to discover another animal that used something we might call words, but it would be quite surprising to find another animal with a word for “word.

  34. #34 zets
    January 7, 2008

    it would not be surprising to discover another animal that used something we might call words, but it would be quite surprising to find another animal with a word for “word.”

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