Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia set a world record for the marathon today. He turned a 2:04:26, beating Paul Tergat’s 2:04:55 on the same Berlin Marathon course.
For those who wonder: That’s running roughly 4:45 each mile for 26.2 miles. According to reports, Mr. Gebrselassie ran some of his fastest splits after all the pace-makers had dropped out.
Of course, the term “world record” doesn’t have the same meaning when used to refer to the marathon (or just about any foot race run on roads) as it does when used to refer to times for events run on tracks. To be sure, some tracks are faster than others, but road courses are subject to a lot more variance: On roads, winds are not balanced by the requirement that runners run as much distance going in one direction as they run going in the exactly opposite direction and, even more importantly, on tracks there are virtually no changes in incline.
That Mr. Gebrselassie ran this time on the same course that Mr. Tergat ran in setting the previous mark makes these two times far more comparable than they would be were they run on different courses.
Mr. Gebrselassie is, to be sure, no slouch. He ran 2:05:56 in Berlin in 2006 and 2:06:52 in Fukuoka later in 2006.
I learned of it through a Rueters post by Erik Kirschbaum that ran in the New York Times under the headline, “Gebrselassie Sets World Marathon Record.” There’s a Web site for the event here. The news is coming out quickly now: AP, CNN, IAATF.