Haile Gebrselassie ran the Berlin Marathon in 2:03:59 28 September 2008, becoming the first person to cover 26.2 miles in fewer than 124 minutes. His time was almost a half minute faster than the time he ran on the same course last year (2:04:26), when he established the world record for the distance.
In comparison with track events, world records for marathons present special problems. Because marathon courses vary in the difference between the elevation at start and finish, some course are inherently much faster than others. Those that start and end at the same spot have an essentially zero grade (total uphill is equal to total downhill), but courses that start and end at different locations (“point-to-point” races) may have net downhill and, therefore, would yield faster times. Also, under certain weather conditions, point-to-point courses might provide a tailwind for runners, pushing them to faster times, too. The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races (AIMS) have standards that courses must meet to qualify if they are to have a recognized world record. The Berlin course meets those standards.
Of additional note: Irina Mikitenko ran a 2:19:19, becoming only the 10th woman to finish a marthon in fewer than 2:20.
As I write this, the IAAF has posted a flash message on its Web site about Mr. Gebrselassie achievement. Of course, the time’s posted on the Berlin Marathon site. Reuters posted the story. Shoot, someone’s already updated the Wikipedia entry on the marathon.