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Will someone run a marathon in less than 2 hours (per IAAF rules) by 2023?

The sub-2 hour marathon has obsessed the running community for years.

In 2017, Nike launched an experiment to see whether at least one of 3 elite marathoners might be able to break through this barrier under ideal training and racing conditions. Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya came achingly close, putting up a time just 25 seconds short of the mark.

One line of thinking suggests that, once this barrier is shattered, we’ll start seeing sub-2 hour times crop up regularly. Brad Wilkins, Nike’s director of NXT Generation Research said as much to CNN

We believe that once a sub-two-hour marathon is done, the records will fall at traditional marathons after that… People will run faster and faster, similar to when Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile."

But maybe this will be harder than the optimists believe. Slate Magazine clarifies the problem:

The size of that gap between Kipchoge’s “theoretically optimized marathon” and the “real world record” tells you one of two things about the future of the marathon, depending on your perspective. Option one is that Kipchoge is so good that he has shown what is truly possible…Option two is the realization that some of Nike’s tactics were so effective that they were worth between two and three minutes to Kipchoge.”

If “option two” is correct, then we’ll probably have to wait a bit longer—maybe a lot longer—before the record falls according to rules defined by the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races (IAAF).

Please note that Metaculus asked a similar question in the past, and it resolved negative. That timeframe was tighter. But still, you've been warned!

Will someone finally succeed in running a sub-2 hour marathon—an attempt recognized as valid and successful by IAAF—before January 1, 2023?


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