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The sub-two-hour marathon is a new barrier in endurance running performance and it has been widely debated in scientific community. In this brief review we present a mathematical model to estimate the possible year when a man could break through the sub-two-hour barrier, and also an estimation of when a woman could break Paula Radcliffe’s marathon running record. Further, we present several aspects (i.e. physiology, nationality, age, biomechanics, pacing, and drafting) that are associated with marathon running performance in elite runners and, finally, the possible characteristics of the man to break the sub-two-hour barrier. In summary, the results of the developed equations, it is possible that a male athlete can break through the sub-two-hour barrier in the next decade [With NIKE® Breaking2 performance 1920-2018 (NBP): y=0.0417x2–14.18x+3128; year of 2026; Without NBP 1920-2018: y=0.045x2–15.12x+3194; year of 2027]. This marathoner will possibly have a maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) greater than 85ml∙kg-1∙min-1 and should perform the race at a pacing higher than 85% of VO2max. In addition, this runner should pay more attention to strength training, endurance strength, speed training, and focus on running training at an intensity above the anaerobic threshold. Most likely, this runner originates from East Africa (especially from Ethiopia) and will have an age of ~27 years. For the women, there is poor evidence regarding the physiological profile of the female marathoner who will break Radcliffe’s record, but the available literature suggests that it will not happen any time soon. Keywords: endurance, running, performance, pacing, drafting
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Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine 2018:9 139–145
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PERSPECTIVE
open access to scientific and medical research
Open Access Full Text Article
http://dx.doi.org/10.2147/OAJSM.S169758
How much further for the sub-2-hour marathon?
Caio Victor Sousa1
Marcelo Magalhães Sales2
Pantelis Theodoros
Nikolaidis3
Thomas Rosemann4
Beat Knechtle4,5
1Graduate Program in Physical
Education, Universidade Católica
de Brasília, Brasília, Brazil; 2Physical
Education Department, Universidade
Estadual de Goiás, Quirinópolis,
Goiás, Brazil; 3Exercise Physiology
Laboratory, Nikaia, Greece; 4Institute
of Primary Care, University of Zurich,
Zurich, Switzerland; 5Medbase St.
Gallen Am Vadianplatz, St. Gallen,
Switzerland
Abstract: The sub-2-hour marathon is a new barrier in endurance running performance, and it
has been widely debated in the scientific community. In this review we present a mathematical
model to estimate the possible year when a male could break through the sub-2-hour barrier,
and also an estimation of when a female could break Paula Radcliffe’s marathon running record.
Further, we present several aspects (ie, physiology, nationality, age, biomechanics, pacing, and
drafting) that are associated with marathon running performance in elite runners and, finally, the
possible characteristics of the male to break the sub-2-hour barrier. In summary, with the results of
the developed equations, it is possible that a male athlete can break through the sub-2-hour barrier
in the next decade (with Nike® Breaking2 performance 1920–2018 [NBP]: y =0.0417x2–14.18x
+3,128; year of 2026; without NBP 1920–2018: y =0.045x2–15.12x +3,194; year of 2027). This
marathoner will possibly have a maximal oxygen uptake >85 mL∙kg–1∙min–1 and should perform
the race at a pacing higher than 85% of maximal oxygen uptake. In addition, this runner should
pay more attention to strength training, endurance strength, speed training, and focus on running
training at an intensity above the anaerobic threshold. Most likely, this runner originates from
East Africa (especially from Ethiopia) and will have an age of ~27 years. For the females, there
is poor evidence regarding the physiological profile of the female marathoner who will break
Radcliffe’s record, but the available literature suggests that it will not happen any time soon.
Keywords: endurance, running, performance, pacing, drafting
Introduction
The marathon run is the most classic Olympic running event. Since it was introduced
as a central part of the modern Olympic Games in 1896, it takes place in countless
cities worldwide, mostly because of its popular appeal,1 with the participation rates
increasing continuously during the last years.2,3 Furthermore, the record times have
been progressively improved since the standardization of the peculiar 42.195 km
marathon distance.4,5
Sports sciences have significantly evolved since the 1920s, especially regarding
exercise physiology, training methods, and thus affecting physical performance.6 In
relation to this, a breakpoint regarding endurance performance were the three Olympic
gold medals achieved by Emil Zátopek, who won the 5,000 m and the 10,000 m and set
a new time record for the marathon at the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki. Zátopek
was one of the first athletes to use high-intensity interval trainings in his routines, a
method that has been exhaustively studied in the last decades.7 Although Zátopek was
an Olympic and World Record holder, nowadays his marathon race time would not be
enough fast even to qualify to the Olympic Games.
Correspondence: Beat Knechtle
Medbase St. Gallen Am Vadianplatz,
Vadianstrasse 26, 9001 St. Gallen,
Switzerland
Tel +41 71 226 9300
Fax +41 71 226 9301
Email beat.knechtle@hispeed.ch
Journal name: Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine
Article Designation: PERSPECTIVE
Year: 2018
Volume: 9
Running head verso: Sousa et al
Running head recto: Sub-2-hour marathon
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2147/OAJSM.S169758
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Even though the marathon records have progressively
improved over the years for both females and males, a time
barrier has been put to the marathon distance for males, the
sub-2-hour performance (Figure 1A). Whereas some athletes
and scientists consider a sub-2-hour marathon as a physi-
ological impossibility,8,9 some other authors believe that it
may happen any time soon.4,10,11
In addition, females have also improved their marathon
performance since it was included in the Olympic Games in
1984 and increased their participation rates relatively more than
males during the last decades.2 In 2003, the British athlete Paula
Radcliffe ran the marathon in 2 hours 15 minutes and 25 sec-
onds, setting a new and impressive World Record ( Figure 1B).
Since then, no females have been able to break it, some authors
even consider this female race time of 2 hours and 15 minutes
as the equivalent for the male sub-2-hour marathon.12
In this update of the report written by Joyner et al,4 we
aimed to summarize the key factors identified in the literature
that have been argued as important in improving a marathon
performance. We further performed a mathematical analysis
to predict when the sub-2-hour marathon would happen for
males, and also propose an speculative quantification of
the possible aspects that could delay (or be delaying) this
breakthrough in human running performance and the sex
difference in marathon running performance.
Analysis
All procedures used in the study were approved by the Insti-
tutional Review Board of Kanton St. Gallen, Switzerland,
with a waiver of the requirement for informed consent of the
participants given the fact that the study involved the analysis
of publicly available data.
Figure 1 Data points of the best marathon performance of males (A) and females (B) including the breakthrough human performance for each category.
Nike Breaking 2
A
170
160
150
140
130
120
1915 1930 1945 1960 1975 1990 2005 2020
Year
Sub-2-hour-barrier
Marathon male best perfomance (min)
155
150
145
140
135
B
1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 2015
2020
Year
Radcliffe’s record
Marathon female best perfomance (min)
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Sub-2-hour marathon
We searched literature (PubMed, Web of Science, and
Scopus; reverse search) for keywords related to all aspects
that could be related to marathon performance in elite run-
ners: marathon, sub-two, endurance performance, elite run,
etc. We obtained data from two publicly available databases
(www.olympic.org and www.iaaf.org). The best official
marathon race times were recorded from males and females,
being: 1999–2018 (up to April 2018) World Championships,
Olympics and Annual Record for males and females both;
and the best official Olympic Marathon race times since
1920 for males and 1984 for females, which was the year
when the marathon running distance was standardized and
involved females, respectively. In 2017, an event to reach the
sub-2-hour time record was performed (Nike® Breaking2,
Nike Inc., Beaverton, OR, USA), in which an athlete reached
the closest performance ever since (2 hours and 25 seconds),
but not yet enough to break through the barrier (https://news.
nike.com/news/breaking2-results).
Since the marathon record times have been progressively
decreasing over the years (Figure 1), we performed differ-
ent regressions analyses to determine the possible year of
the sub-2-hour performance. We calculated two nonlinear
regressions using second-order polynomial adjustment, one
with and one without the Nike Breaking2 record (Table 1).
We used a polynomial regression because the data seem to be
curvilinear (Figure 1). Moreover, polynomial adjustments are
also applied if the curvilinear response function is unknown,
since a polynomial function is a good approximation to the
true function13 and because linear regressions are also limited
for performance progressions, since the performance never
attenuates or decreases. A further analysis from 1920 to 2012
was also performed to test the accuracy of the model, with
the data from 2013 to 2018 to be applied in the formula. All
data analyses were performed using the Microsoft Excel
(MS Excel 2011 for Mac, Google, Mountain View, CA,
USA) and GraphPad Prism (v. 6.0, GraphPad Software, La
Jolla, CA, USA).
Perspective
Data analyses indicate that if performance improvement
would be linear over the years, the sub-2-hour marathon
performance is quite very near (2018), considering or not
the Nike Breaking2 event. However, the limits of human
performance have been more difficult to break through every
year.14 In the marathon running, every minute in the final
race time is achieved by a combination of factors including a
great athlete with unique biomechanical10 and physiological15
qualities, running in a good day, with favorable environmental
and race course conditions.
Previous data analyses to predict marathon indicate
contradictory results.4,5 Joyner et al4 analyzed male’s World
Records and suggested that the sub-2-hour marathon will
break around 2020–2022, based on a 10–20 seconds of
performance improvement every year. In this update, that
includes important recent records by Kimetto and Kipchoge,
the results indicate that it may happen in 2026–2027 (non-
linear analysis). On the other hand, using a velocity-based
analysis, Weiss et al5 report that the sub-2-hour marathon will
not be broken in the century; the authors further discuss that
the female’s marathon record are not supposed to be beaten
any time soon. Another study reported that the sub-2-hour
marathon is unlikely to happen with an analysis based on the
World Records gap between males and females.16
The biomechanical and environmental effects that could
affect human performance in marathon running have been
widely discussed in a review by Hoogkamer et al.10 In sum-
mary, cooperative drafting, tailwind, downhill, and footwear
modifications seem to be fundamental to reduce the metabolic
cost of running, possibly leading to a great physical perfor-
mance. However, although downhill courses and cooperative
strategies with fresh runners to overcome the air resistance are
not allowed by the International Association of Athletics Fed-
erations (IAAF), the Nike Breaking2 performed by Eliud Kip-
choge (Kenyan, 33 years old) had the best conditions possible
in a non-downhill course, but the best marathon performance
of all time still was not enough to beat the sub-2-hour barrier.
Despite the fact that the marathon performance of
Kipchoge is unofficial, it may give some enlightenment
regarding what else could be done to break through the sub-
2-hour barrier. The physiological aspects that could lead
an athlete to achieve such a performance have been widely
discussed from different points of view.15,17–21
Physiological aspects
The physiological aspects that have been considered as
the determinants of performance in endurance athletes are
Table 1 Regression analyses to determine the possible year of
breakthrough in the sub-2-hour marathon time
Year R2Equation
1920–2018
With NBP 2026 0.941 y =0.0417x2–14.18x +3128
Without NBP 2027 0.942 y =0.045x2–15.12x +3194
1920–2013
With NBP AL =99.1% 0.934 y =0.039x2–13.63x +3088
Note: R2: determination coefcient.
Abbreviations: NBP, Nike® Breaking2 performance; AL, agreement level.
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Sousa et al
maximum oxygen consumption (VO2max), running veloc-
ity at the anaerobic threshold, and running economy.15,17,22,23
Champions in endurance running sports (ie, half-
marathon, marathon, ultra-marathon) have a VO2max of
70–85 mL∙kg–1∙min–1.15 In view of the above, although
VO2max is not the most determinant physiological factor
for running performance, in order to overcome the barrier
of running a marathon below 2 hours, the athlete must have
a VO 2max higher than the endurance champions have today.
In addition, running a marathon corresponds to an intensity
(average pace) equal to 75%–85% of the VO2max.15 Thus,
perhaps, to overcome the barrier of running a marathon below
2 hours, athletes may need to maintain an average running
pace higher than literature has often been pointing out that
such distance has been realized.15
On the other hand, the running economy, which is tradi-
tionally expressed as mL∙kg–1∙km–1, seems to be a better pre-
dictor of performance than VO2max.18 An individual with a
lower VO2max but with better running economy may have an
enhanced endurance performance than an individual with a
higher VO2max.18 When comparing the running economy of
Spanish runners with Eritrean runners, Lucia et al18 showed
that there was no significant difference in VO2max, but
Eritrean runners had a better running economy. The Eritrean
runner, who became World Cross Country champion over 12
km in 2007 (Zersenay Tadese; born 1982; also participated
in the Nike Breaking2), used only 150 mL∙kg–1∙km–1 when he
ran at speeds of 17, 19, and 21 km∙h–1. This is the lowest VO2
reported at these speeds,24 suggesting that running economy
can be an important predictor of running performance.
Strength training, strength endurance, and also speed
training have been suggested as an important intervention
for the improvement of the running economy. Johnston et al19
examined the effect of 10-week strength training on a range
of physiological variables. The training did not result in any
significant increase in VO2max, but the running economy at
a given submaximal load improved by 4%. Berryman et al25
in a meta-analysis assessed the effects of strength training in
middle- and long-distance runners and concluded that endur-
ance athletes could benefit from it by improving their energy
cost of running, locomotion, maximal power, and maximal
strength. Thus, strength training and sprint training seem to
be important interventions to allow runners, at some point,
to be able to run a marathon in <2 hours.
In addition, it appears that training at the anaerobic thresh-
old intensity is also effective in improving running economy,
and in turn, favoring performance in endurance trials.20 Tjelta
et al21 demonstrated that both VO2max and running economy
explain 89% of the anaerobic threshold velocity. Moreover,
Maffulli et al26 reported strong (r =0.80–0.90) and signifi-
cant (p<0.05) correlations between running velocity at the
anaerobic threshold and performance over running distances
from 5,000 m to the marathon. In order to increase running
velocity at the anaerobic threshold and, in turn, running per-
formance, studies demonstrated that running training above
the anaerobic threshold velocity may be more effective.27,28
Taken together, the three main physiological factors
affecting a marathon performance in elite runners could
be summarized as running economy, anaerobic threshold,
and VO2max, in this order of importance (Figure 2). It is
elementary that each one of these aspects affects the other,
but evidence seems clear pointing that the sub-2-hour mara-
thon runner will have an outstanding running economy with
a great running velocity at anaerobic threshold.
Pacing, aging, and nationality
Another major aspect for endurance performance is the
pacing strategy, the ability to affectively expend energy to
prevent premature fatigue prior to the completion of the
event.29–31 In that regard, there are evidences suggesting that,
in a marathon, older athletes run at a steadier pace (smaller
changes) than younger athletes.30 It has been suggested that
an “even” or “constant” pace is the best strategy for endur-
ance performance.31,32 Moreover, the pacing strategy used by
elite marathoners have been suggested as not being optimal,33
which means that coaches and athletes may still have room
for improvement in their tactical methods.
Noble and Chapman34 recently reported that African
marathoners reach a peak of performance earlier than
Figure 2 Speculative estimates of key points in each fundamental factor affecting
marathon performance in elite runners.
Notes: Each fundamental factor was based on hierarchical importance as
biomechanics,10,44 physiology,15,22 tactics,29,30,42 and genetic pool.4,14,30
Abbreviation: LT, lactate threshold.
Genetic pool
1% Rest of the world
85% East African
14% Eastern Europe
50% constant drafting
2% lateral balance
7% leg swing
35% LT
050 100
11% breaking forces/
ventilation/cardiac work
80% body weight/
forward propulsion
25% VO2 max
50% even pace
40% running
economy
Tactical
Physiological
Biomechanical
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Sub-2-hour marathon
non-Africans counterparts (27.1±0.1 versus 30.1±0.1
years, respectively). Further, African marathoners have
also the fastest marathon time compared with non-Africans
(2:05:47±0:00:06 versus 2:08:41±0:00:06 h:min:s). These
authors also showed that African marathoners specialize
earlier and have an elevated rate of performance improvement
and, finally, that there is a positive correlation between age of
specialization and rate of improvement.34 More specifically,
there are also reports that East Africans (ie, Kenyan, Ethio-
pian) are faster than others.14,35,36 Especially, Ethiopian males
were faster than all other males in the marathon run when the
performances of the world’s best runners in marathon from
the IAAF during 1999–2015 were considered.14 Furthermore,
Tam et al37 compared physiological variables in elite Kenyan
marathoners with European controls. Although the authors
reported no difference in VO2max (64.9±5.8 versus 63.9±3.7
mL.kg–1.min–1) and energy economy in submaximal running
speed (18 km h–1: 178±16 mL.kg–1 km–1 for both), Kenyan
runners were faster in half- and full marathon.37
For the females, it seems that they reach a peak of perfor-
mance a little later than males, and most of the female athletes
participating in marathons are from Ethiopia and Kenya.14
Although the current rankings are dominated by east African
females, the World Record was achieved by a British runner,
Paula Radcliffe. Furthermore, Joyner38 recently discussed
the possible sex differences for marathon performance, and
apart the social factor, the VO2max in females is the possible
limiting factor.
On the other hand, recent evidence shows that Mo Farrah,
Olympic champion in the 5,000 and 10,000 m and recently
retired from the tracks, started a career in marathon events.
This athlete has the conditions and may be the one to run a
<2 hour marathon. However, he would be an outlier by being
a non-African runner and 35 years of age. Suggesting that it
may be an exception to the athlete profile we have outlined
previously to break this barrier.
Taken together, although eastern Europeans have a good
historical performance regarding marathon records, it is
reasonable to assume that the male to break the sub-2-hour
marathon is likely to be an East African (especially from
Ethiopia) at around 27 years old with a steady pacing strat-
egy. From a practical point of view, this would mean running
the marathon at a steady pace of 434′′/mile or 250′′/km.
Although difficult to imagine that a few seconds could affect
a marathon performance, Kipchoge finish the Nike Breaking2
with 5 km partials with a mean pace variation from 249′′/
km to 251′′/km, with the slowest partial being the last 253′′/
km and missed the record by 25 seconds. Perhaps a steady
pacing that makes it possible to stay a few seconds ahead of
the deadline could help motivate the athlete within the last
and most demanding kilometers.
Drafting
Performing an activity in a sheltered position is defined as
“drafting,” which has been studied in many sports, such as
cycling,39 swimming,40 and running.41 In summary, evidences
show that drafting improves performance in endurance sports
and that the benefit would likely increase with increasing
speed of performance.42
In a marathon, the first half has an optimal performance
possibly because of potential saving of energy due to draft-
ing. However, the second half is more difficult because there
are few runners that could provide drafting for more than the
first half of a marathon race.10 As pointed out by Hoogkamer
et al10 and performed in the Nike Breaking2, the best option
would be to have several runners in a loop course, then when
the first ones starts to fatigue, fresh runners would replace
then. Nevertheless, this scenario is not allowed by the IAAF.43
For the females, little is known regarding the physiological
peculiarities of elite marathoners, but there is no reason to
believe that regarding pacing strategies and drafting they
would respond different. Paula Radcliffe’s record is a clear
outline marathon performance, and the limited evidence
available suggests that this record will endure a little longer.5
Conclusion
In summary, although it is possible that a male athlete
breaks through the sub-2-hour barrier in the next decade
(2025–2028), we warn that empirical models may be intrin-
sically weak, but it could give us an idea that this breakout
human performance is close. This marathoner will possibly
have a VO2max >85 mL∙kg–1∙min–1 and should perform the
race at a running intensity higher than 85% of VO2max. In
addition, this runner should focus on running training at
intensities above the anaerobic threshold. Most likely, this
runner originates from East Africa (especially from Ethiopia)
and will have an age of ~27 years. Regarding Radcliffe’s
record, it could be beaten at any time; however, there is poor
evidence regarding the physiological profile of the female
marathoner who will achieve it.
Author contributions
CVS, MMS, PTN, TR, and BK have made substantial contri-
butions to conception, design, data acquisition, data analysis,
and interpretation of this manuscript; CVS, MMS, PTN, TR,
and BK have also worked on the draft, critically revised for
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important intellectual content, and approved the final ver-
sion of the manuscript. All authors agreed to all aspects of
the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy
or integrity of the work are appropriately investigated and
resolved.
Disclosure
The authors report no conflicts of interest in this work.
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Sub-2-hour marathon
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... The present world record holder, Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya (2:01:39, Berlin Marathon, 16 September 2018) succeeded in lowering the previous record by 1 min and 18 s. This performance has increased speculation regarding the possibility of a sub 2 h performance ( Hoogkamer et al., 2017;Sousa et al., 2018). Some authors and scientists have suggested that such a performance is physiologically impossible ( Liu and Schutz, 1998;Weiss et al., 2016), whereas others argue that the barrier may be broken in the near future (Boullosa et al., 2011;Joyner et al., 2011;Hoogkamer et al., 2017;Sousa et al., 2018). ...
... This performance has increased speculation regarding the possibility of a sub 2 h performance ( Hoogkamer et al., 2017;Sousa et al., 2018). Some authors and scientists have suggested that such a performance is physiologically impossible ( Liu and Schutz, 1998;Weiss et al., 2016), whereas others argue that the barrier may be broken in the near future (Boullosa et al., 2011;Joyner et al., 2011;Hoogkamer et al., 2017;Sousa et al., 2018). ...
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In any athletic event, the ability to appropriately distribute energy is essential to prevent premature fatigue prior to the completion of the event. In sport science literature this is termed “pacing.” Within the past decade, research aiming to better understand the underlying mechanisms influencing the selection of an athlete's pacing during exercise has dramatically increased. It is suggested that pacing is a combination of anticipation, knowledge of the end-point, prior experience and sensory feedback. In order to better understand the role each of these factors have in the regulation of pace, studies have often manipulated various conditions known to influence performance such as the feedback provided to participants, the starting strategy or environmental conditions. As with all research there are several factors that should be considered in the interpretation of results from these studies. Thus, this review aims at discussing the pacing literature examining the manipulation of: (i) energy expenditure and pacing strategies, (ii) kinematics or biomechanics, (iii) exercise environment, and (iv) fatigue development.
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The aim of the present study was to analyse men's and women's world records across the full range of running disciplines to contextualise the recent debate about the possibility of a sub-2 hour marathon. The average male-female gap is currently 11.2 ± 1.0% for all running events. However, reducing the marathon time to below two hours would produce a performance 12.9% (+1.7 SD) faster than the women's marathon record. This gap would be greater than all current World Record differences, and would also require a reversal of medium and long-term historical trends in the men's and women's record differences. We therefore conclude that on the basis of historical trends and known differences between men's and women's performances, the current women's World Record is not yet the equivalent of a sub-2 hour marathon and therefore, that an imminent sub-2 hour marathon is implausible.
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This brief review summarizes factors associated with elite endurance performance, trends in distance running training, and participation by men and more recently women. It is framed in the context of key ideas about the physiological determinants of endurance performance but also touches on some historical and sociological factors relevant to the overall topic. Historical trends that served to increase women's participation in elite endurance events are also discussed as is the role of increased volume and intensity of training. The rapid improvement in women's world record marathon times in 1970 s and 80 s are emblematic of these trends and represent a combination of increased training volume and intensity and more competitive opportunities. This occurred as bans on participation by women in endurance events were lifted. For men these same trends evolved over a much longer time frame. The main physiological factor responsible for 10-12% slower times in women compared to men at the elite level are also considered and likely centre around VO2 max. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
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The aim of the present study was to examine the performance of the world’s best runners in 10km, half-marathon, marathon and 100km by age, sex and nationality during 1999-2015 using data from International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). A total of 38,895 runners (17,136 women and 21,759 men) were considered with 2,594 (1,360 women and 1,234 male) in 10km, 11,595 (5,225 women and 6,370 male) in half-marathon, 23,973 (10,208 women and 13,765 male) in marathon and 733 (343 women and 390 male) in 100km. Most of the runners in 10km (women 40%, men 67%) and half-marathon (women 30%, men 57%) were Kenyans. In marathon, most female and male runners were Ethiopians (women 17%, men 14%) and Kenyans (women 15%, men 43%), respectively. In 100km, most runners were Japanese (20% in women and men). Women were older than men in 10km (32.0±6.0 versus 25.3±4.3 years, p<0.001), half-marathon (27.5±4.7 versus 25.9±4.1 years, p<0.001) and marathon (29.5±5.5 versus 29.1±4.3 years, p<0.001), but not in 100km (36.6±6.1 versus 35.9±5.5 years, p=0.097). Men were faster than women in 10km (28:04±0:17 versus 32:08±0.31 min:sec, p<0.001), half-marathon (1:01:58±0:00:52 versus 1:11:21±0:01:18 h:min:sec, p<0.001), marathon (2:13:42±0:03:01 versus 2:35:04±0:05:21 h:min:s, p<0.001), and 100km (6:48:01±0:11:29 versus 7:53:51±0:16:37 h:min:sec, p<0.001). East-Africans were not the fastest compared to athletes originating from other countries where only Ethiopian men were faster than all other men in marathon. In summary, (i) most runners were from Kenya and Ethiopia in 10km, half-marathon and marathon, but from Japan and Russia in 100km, (ii) women were older than men in all distances except 100km, (iii) men were the fastest in all distances, and (iii) Ethiopian men were faster than all other men in marathon.