Marathon World Record Over Time (Infographic)

Posted on 06 August, 2021 by Jens Jakob Andersen

We have compiled information about the marathon world record over time, which is illustrated in the infographic below. As you see, we have done great improvements. In the graphic you will find 1) the progress in the world record for men and women, 2) what nations has had the marathon world record the most times and 3) where in the world has the record been beaten the most.


The progress over time in the world marathon record

Since the year 1900 the marathon record has been improved significantly. The first registered time was 2:55:18,4. Today the record is almost 1 hours faster. The record is 2:02:57 (2:55 min/km), only 2 minutes and 57 seconds from the magical 2 hours. Will the human body be able to run a marathon faster than 2 hours?

Also, notice how the difference between mens and womens performance is only around 15 minutes. Women are catching up. Maybe that is correlated to the fact that the popularity of marathon running among women is increasing steadily faster than it is for men?

The best marathon nations - surprised?

USA is the world's dominating nation when it comes to having had the record the most times. Today though, USA is far from as fast as Kenyan and Ethiopian runners. The last 5 records has been set by Paul Tergat (Kenya), Haile Gebrselassie (Ethiopia - Adidas as well), Patrick Makau (Kenya) og Wilson Kipsang (Kenya). All are using Adidas running shoes.

In the women league there hasn't been much progression since Paula Radcliffe (using Nike running shoes) outperformed all others in 2003. A few decades earlier on, Norway was dominating with Ingrid Kristiansen (using running shoes from ASICS).

Where to run the fastest marathon?

The last 6 marathons has been set at Berlin Marathon. The route is flat without many corners. Though keep in mind that the price for the winner also reflects who participates and thereby what the finish time will be.

Other alternatives are London Marathon and Boston marathon. Boston Marathon though, does not have the start and finish positioned at the same place and therefore it is not recognized as a race to set record. Other alternatives are Frankfurt, Rotterdam and Amsterdam.

Jens Jakob Andersen
Jens Jakob Andersen
Jens Jakob is a fan of short distances with a 5K PR at 15:58 minutes. Based on 35 million race results, he's among the fastest 0.2% runners. Jens Jakob previously owned a running store, when he was also a competitive runner. His work is regularly featured in The New York Times, Washington Post, BBC and the likes as well as peer-reviewed journals. Finally, he has been a guest on +30 podcasts on running.