Sara Hall

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2019 U.S. and world marathon rankings

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The last full year of marathons before the 2020 Olympics saw not only Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge‘s successful bid to break the two-hour mark under controlled conditions but also a women’s world record and four of the fastest men’s times ever.

Brigid Kosgei of Kenya took more than a minute off Paula Radcliffe‘s 16-year-old record, winning the Chicago Marathon in 2:14:01.

FAST TIMES: Kosgei, Kipchoge herald new era

Kipchoge still holds the world record of 2:01:39, set in the 2018 Berlin Marathon 14 months ago. But Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia came within two seconds of that mark in this year’s Berlin race, and Kipchoge himself won the London Marathon with the third-fastest time in history (2:02:37).

Add the runners-up from those races — Ethiopians Birhanu Legese (Berlin, 2:02:48) and Mosinet Geremew (London, 2:02:55) — and the four fastest times behind Kipchoge’s world record were posted in the past seven months. 

The top U.S. runner on the IAAF’s compilation of the year’s best times is Sara Hall, whose time of 2:22:16 in Berlin tied for 33rd on the list. (The IAAF site currently has a glitch listing a U.S. runner higher on the list; the time is incorrect.) Emily Sisson was 49th with her 2:23:08 in London. Sally Kipyego‘s 2:25:10 in Berlin ranks 93rd. (Add times from courses the IAAF considers “irregular” for various reasons, and Kipyego ranks 96th.)

With Galen Rupp out of action while recovering from Achilles surgery, the only U.S. runner among the top 100 was Leonard Korir (tied for 87th, 2:07:56, Amsterdam), but nine of the top 10 U.S. times in the Olympic cycle were posted this year. Only Rupp’s 2:06:07 from Prague in May 2018 ranks higher.

The two next-fastest U.S. men’s times from 2019 were at the Boston Marathon, which the IAAF considers “irregular” because the finish line isn’t near the start line and the overall elevation at the finish line is lower than the start.

The top U.S. women’s times from the Olympic cycle still belong to Jordan Hasay (2:20:57, Chicago 2017) and Amy Cragg (2:21:42, Tokyo 2018), followed by Hall and Sisson.

USA Track and Field will hold its Olympic marathon trials Feb. 29 in Atlanta.

The fastest times of the year (* – on “irregular” course) …

U.S. men

Name Time Race Result
Leonard Korir 2:07:56 Amsterdam 11th
Scott Fauble 2:09:09 Boston* 7th
Jared Ward 2:09:25 Boston* 8th
Jacob Riley 2:10:36 Chicago 9th
Jerrell Mock 2:10:37 Chicago 10th
Jared Ward 2:10:45 New York City 6th
Parker Stinson 2:10:53 Chicago 11th
Andrew Bumbalough 2:10:56 Chicago 12th
Matt McDonald 2:11:10 Chicago 14th
Matt Llano 2:11:14 Berlin 14th
Scott Smith 2:11:34 Chicago 15th

U.S. women

Name Time Race Result
Sara Hall 2:22:16 Berlin 5th
Emily Sisson 2:23:08 London 6th
Sally Kipyego 2:25:10 Berlin 7th
Jordan Hasay 2:25:20 Boston* 3rd
Emma Bates 2:25:27 Chicago 4th
Kellyn Johnson 2:26:27 Prague 4th
Molly Huddle 2:26:33 London 12th
Desiree Linden 2:26:46 New York City 6th
Aliphine Chepkerker Tuliamuk 2:26:50 Rotterdam 3rd
Kellyn Johnson 2:27:00 New York City 7th

World men

Name Time Race Result
Kenenisa Bekele (ETH) 2:01:41 Berlin 1st
Eliud Kipchoge (KEN) 2:02:37 London 1st
Birhanu Legese (ETH) 2:02:48 Berlin 2nd
Mosinet Geremew (ETH) 2:02:55 London 2nd
Mule Washihun (ETH) 2:03:16 London 3rd
Getaneh Molla (ETH) 2:03:34 Dubai 1st
Sisay Lemma (ETH) 2:03:36 Berlin 3rd
Herpasa Negasa (ETH) 2:03:40 Dubai 2nd
Marius Kipserem (KEN) 2:04:11 Rotterdam 1st
Asefa Mengstu (ETH) 2:04:24 Dubai 3rd

World women

Name Time Race Result
Brigid Kosgei 2:14:04 Chicago 1st
Ruth Chepngetich 2:17:08 Dubai 1st
Worknesh Degefa 2:17:41 Dubai 2nd
Brigid Kosgei 2:18:20 London 1st
Valary Jemeli 2:19:10 Frankfurt 1st
Degitu Azimeraw 2:19:26 Amsterdam 1st
Lonah Chemtai Salpeter 2:19:46 Prague 1st
Tigist Girma 2:19:52 Amsterdam 2nd
Vivian J. Cheruiyot 2:20:14 London 2nd
Ashtete Bekere 2:20:14 Berlin 1st

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Foot race or arms race? New York City Marathon runners enter high-tech shoe debate

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NEW YORK — Among the otherwise typical New York City Marathon storylines — like course records and prep for the U.S. Olympic Trials on Feb. 29 — is the debate over shoe technology that escalated after recent historic performances.

Sunday’s race is the first major marathon since the breakthrough weekend of Oct. 12-13.

Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge became the first person to run a sub-two-hour marathon (not in a race, but in a non-record-eligible event where he was the only contestant, with pacers). The next day, countrywoman Brigid Kosgei won the Chicago Marathon in 2:14:04, shattering the 16-year-old women’s world record by 81 seconds.

Both Kipchoge, regarded as the greatest marathoner in history before his 1:59, and Kosgei, arguably the world’s greatest active female road runner before the 2:14, ran in versions of the Nike Vaporfly — uniquely tall shoes on the outside with a carbon fiber plate on the inside. Kipchoge has been running on versions of them for years, including when he lowered the world record by 78 seconds to 2:01:39 in 2018.

In the last 13 months, four men combined to run the five fastest marathons in history, all reportedly in versions of the Vaporfly. Other shoe companies have been tasked to catch up to Nike’s technology since the Vaporfly debuted in 2016.

“It is an arms race, and it should be a foot race,” said Des Linden, a two-time Olympian and 2018 Boston Marathon champion who is sponsored by and runs in Brooks shoes. “We should find out who the best athlete is and who can cover 26.2 [miles] better than the other person. Not who has the newest, greatest technology.”

Linden said she will race Sunday in the latest version of a shoe that Brooks has been working on for two years but didn’t say how close its technology was to the Nike Vaporfly.

“I’m not sure how much I can say about the Brooks shoe,” she said. “I’ve had conversations with them where it was like, is this OK to wear? What’s your guys standing on this? They’re like, yeah, it’s absolutely widely available to the public. There’s plenty of Brooks athletes out there in that shoe. The technology isn’t something that isn’t available to the public. It seems like we’re in a good spot.”

The IAAF, track and field’s international governing body, does have rules regulating shoes.

“Any type of shoe used must be reasonably available to all in the spirit of the universality of athletics,” it reads. “Shoes must not be constructed so as to give athletes any unfair assistance or advantage.”

Days after Kipchoge and Kosgei’s breakthroughs, the IAAF said it commissioned a group to review shoe technologies and possibly recommend rule changes by the end of the year.

“It is clear that some forms of technology would provide an athlete with assistance that runs contrary to the values of the sport,” the IAAF said. “The challenge for the IAAF is to find the right balance in the technical rules between encouraging the development and use of new technologies in athletics and the preservation of the fundamental characteristics of the sport: accessibility, universality and fairness.”

Versions of the Vaporfly have been made available to the public, but Kipchoge ran his 1:59 (again, not in a race) in a prototype. Linden said she doesn’t think the playing field is level between athletes in Nike shoes and those who are not.

“Every company has a different pace that they’re working at,” she said. “So we’re all obviously behind [Nike] to begin with.

“Now that it’s available, it’s everyone playing catch-up. I think that we can get there, but also, are they going to put a hard stop against how far this can go?”

Another top American in the New York City field, Sara Hall, just chopped four minutes off her marathon PR last month wearing her Asics.

“I haven’t run in carbon-plated shoes at all,” she said. “But I think the upside of that is, I really feel like I have ownership over my PRs and stuff. I know I worked really hard to get that PR, and I didn’t just have springs and things like that.”

Jared Ward, who finished sixth at the Rio Olympics (not in Vaporflies), said he’s running Sunday in the latest version of a Saucony shoe that will be released in the spring. Ward, also a statistics professor at BYU, said he hasn’t put a lot of thought into the Nike shoes, but that the shoe industry “is on its side a little bit.”

“At some point, there’s diminishing returns because if you get taller and taller shoes, you have to build wider and wider shoes, and then they start getting heavy,” he said. “In a year or two, things are going to stabilize, and then we’ll be back to running.

“I’m looking more at what the athletes are doing. I think Kipchoge and Kosgei are some of the best, probably the best marathoners ever. And so we put them in good shoes, and they run well, but they’re going to run well in whatever they’re running in.”

The Vaporflies were created in part because athletes did not find the lightweight, minimalist shoe movement to their liking. Take Shalane Flanagan, the four-time Olympian, longtime Nike athlete and 2017 New York City Marathon winner who recently retired.

Flanagan said she and other marathoners told Nike around 2014 and 2015 that they wanted more cushioning. Eventually, Flanagan and Amy Cragg debuted a version of the Vaporfly at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials.

“Even within my training, I felt I was able to recover quicker because there wasn’t as much muscle breakdown, fiber breakdown, because the load of the landing was softened,” she said. “I was able to get through the training and not feel so sore all the time.”

Those first Vaporflies had a carbon fiber plate, but not nearly as technical as the newer versions, said Flanagan, now coaching a Nike group of runners in Oregon.

“At the time it was more focused on the foam than the shank that was within it,” she said.

Flanagan, before answering questions on the subject, admitted she has bias as a Nike athlete/coach.

“If you look at all different sports, there’s always been kind of a pivotal point in which the sport has decided we’re going to this direction or we’re not going to go a direction in terms of innovation,” she said, noting high-tech swimsuits (banned in 2010), tennis rackets, speed skating suits and baseball bats. “It’s up to our sport to decide which direction we want to go — innovate or stay the same?”

One of the high-profile Nike athletes running on Sunday is Kenyan Geoffrey Kamworor, the half marathon world-record holder, 2017 New York City champion and a training partner of Kipchoge. He will race in Vaporflies, but not the same version that Kipchoge had three weeks ago. Kamworor was asked what he would say to those who want them regulated or even banned.

“Vaporfly shoe is not only for the elite athletes, but it’s also for the average runners,” he said, referring to the IAAF’s mandate of universality. “It’s not limited to some people. It’s for everyone.”

MORE: Tokyo governor to IOC: Keep Olympic marathon in Tokyo

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Olympians added to New York City Marathon field

Dathan Ritzenhein
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Two Americans will go from the Rio Olympic track next month to the New York City Marathon on Nov. 6.

Kim Conley, who made her second Olympic 5000m team earlier this month, will debut in the marathon less than three months after her event final in Rio. The full American field for the race is here.

Conley joins fellow two-time Olympian Molly Huddle in making a 26.2-mile debut in New York. Huddle announced her entry June 9, following a trend of recent great U.S. distance runners, and one month later won the Olympic Trials 10,000m.

The New York field will also include Dathan Ritzenhein, a 2004, 2008 and 2012 Olympian who failed to make the Rio team. Ritzenhein was the fastest American at the 2015 Boston Marathon in seventh place (2:11:20) but dropped out of the Olympic Trials marathon on Feb. 13 around mile 20.

Sara Hall, the wife of the retired Ryan Hall (fastest American marathoner of all time), will make her New York City Marathon debut on Nov. 6 as well. Sara Hall was the top American at the London Marathon on April 24 in 12th place.

More Rio Olympians could still be added to the New York City Marathon field.

MORE: The story behind Estonia’s Olympic marathon triplets