No human will run a marathon in under two hours for the next 13 YEARS

No human will run a marathon in under two hours until 2032: Study of elite athletes says no-one will be strong enough to smash record for the next 13 YEARS

  • The current men’s world record time is 2 hours 1 minute and 39 seconds
  • For women, Paula Radcliffe’s 2:15.25 mark, set back in 2003, still stands 
  • Australian researchers analysed how the world records have progressed 
  • They claim it is unlikely a woman will run a marathon quicker than 2:05.31

It is the record that professional runners dream of smashing.

But no athlete will manage to run a two-hour marathon for more than a decade, a study suggests.

A statistical analysis on the chances of a male marathon runner breaking the two-hour barrier have found it is not likely to happen until 2032.

Kenyan runner Eliud Kipchoge (pictured) set the current men’s world record time of 2 hours 1 minute and 39 seconds at the Berlin Marathon last September

That is despite the hopes raised when Kenyan runner Eliud Kipchoge completed the Berlin Marathon in two hours one minute and 39 seconds last year.

The bad news for female runners is that it may never happen for them, with the same analysis suggesting two hours five minutes and 31 seconds is the top marathon speed they will ever achieve.

British runner Paula Radcliffe is yet to be beaten on her 2003 marathon record of just over two hours and 15 minutes.

Dr Simon Angus, from Monash University in Australia, analysed official male and female world record performance times since 1950 to create a computer model for how much faster marathon runners become over time.

It is accurate to within 200 seconds for previous marathon winners and, unless there is a massive breakthrough in performance clothing, technology or prize money, is believed to predict future winning times too.

Dr Angus said: ‘Breaking the sub-two hour marathon in an official event has attracted growing interest in recent times with commercial and international momentum building.’

But he added: ‘While a sub-two hour run could occur any time between now and May 2032, the likelihood of that occurring is extremely rare.’

GB athlete Paula Radcliffe's 2:15.25 mark, set in 2003 at the London Marathon, still stands

GB athlete Paula Radcliffe’s 2:15.25 mark, set in 2003 at the London Marathon, still stands

While shaving a few minutes off the marathon world record may seem a small feat for casual runners, it is extremely hard in elite terms. Despite sports company Nike trying to beat the two-hour target in 2017, its runners fell short by 25 seconds.

The Australian study puts the odds of someone beating two hours in 2032 at one in 10, although that will fall to odds of one in four in 35 years’ time.

The good news is that men’s chance of breaking the two hours ever is 50/50. But women’s chances are one in 100, based on the economic model used in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.

That suggests women may be better striving to hit a ‘sub-130’ goal instead, according to ultra-marathon runner Dr Angus, who is associate professor of economics at Monash Business School. For women a ‘sub-130’ marathon, done in fewer than 130 minutes, became technically possible in 1996.

Dr Angus said: ‘In my opinion, this finding should cause public and private actors to work harder at reducing barriers and increasing opportunities for elite female athletic performance. The evidence of this study and others like it is that there are likely world-record female marathoners living today, principally in Africa. We just don’t yet know who they are.’


Scientists have found that projecting positive energy and smiling can improve athletic performance.    

Researchers from Ulster University found that grinning can reduce an athlete’s perceived effort, or how hard they feel they are working, making the sport easier for them. 

Runners used 2.8 percent less energy when smiling in comparison to frowning.

The study found that smiling can help runners relax and reduce muscle tension, making the activity easier. 

In fact, researchers say many top athletes, including Olympic marathon gold medallist Eliud Kipchoge, smile to enhance their performance.