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23-year-old runner sets mindboggling world record at Chicago Marathon


So yesterday I ran the Army Ten-Miler here in Washington, and creaky 50-something-year-old knees aside, I was pretty happy with my time, definitely happy to have finished. Well, it turns out you can file this in the complete slouch department compared to the feat that Kelvin Kiptum pulled off yesterday in Chicago.


UNIDENTIFIED SPORTSCASTER: We're going to get ourselves a new world record. He recognizes it. He's waving to the crowd, kisses - an amazing effort by Kelvin Kiptum.

KELLY: In only his third marathon ever, Kiptum shattered the world record by more than half a minute. He ran 26.2 miles in two hours and 35 seconds. Well, here to talk us through this is Scott Douglas, contributor to Runner's World and co-author of "Advanced Marathoning." Welcome.

SCOTT DOUGLAS: Thanks for having me.

KELLY: So I want to put this in perspective. He ran - he was running a four-minute-and-36-second mile. And he did this over and over 26 times for two hours straight. Just to note, most very fit people in the world cannot run that for a single mile. Forget 26. How mind-boggling is this?

DOUGLAS: It's even more mind-boggling than even maybe what you just said because most fit people couldn't run one lap of a standard track at that pace.

KELLY: No. And this was his third marathon. What else should we know about him?

DOUGLAS: Well, so he's really interesting because he's 23 years old, which in marathoning terms is traditionally pretty young. But what he's done is he's sort of skipped the part where you race on the track internationally at 5,000 meters, 10,000 meters for a few years and then move up to the marathon. And Kelvin Kiptum is an example of somebody who is showing that maybe, in this new generation of superfast marathons, you might want to skip that part and just go right to the roads.

KELLY: You just said something about how we are in this era of superfast marathons. I will note the women's marathon world record - that just fell a couple of weeks ago, which prompts me to ask about shoes. For those who don't follow what's going on with running shoes for long distances, just explain.

DOUGLAS: Sure. So starting in roughly 2016, we call them super shoes, and they are thought to help people run a lot faster at the same effort level.

KELLY: These are totally legal.

DOUGLAS: They are perfectly legal. Yes. A lot of people probably in your race yesterday wore them. And they would - probably today, they would say, my legs aren't as beat up after running in those shoes as they are in the shoes that I ran in 10 years ago. And so if you're running, you know, the amount of mileage that the top people are running, that might mean that you can train a little bit harder than you were back in the day, when you were sort of more beat up from, you know, the non-super shoes.

KELLY: Do we know what Kelvin Kiptum wants to do next now that he shattered the world record in his third marathon?

DOUGLAS: No. And it's really interesting because, you know, the person whose record he broke, Eliud Kipchoge, has won the last two Olympic marathons. Both are from Kenya. It'll be fascinating to see if both can get named to the Kenyan Olympic team for next summer and both want to run it. I could see where Kelvin Kiptum might very well want to say, no, I'd rather be the first person to break two hours.

KELLY: Yeah.

DOUGLAS: You can have the Olympic title.

KELLY: Scott Douglas, contributing writer for Runner's World, talking about the new world record just set by Kelvin Kiptum and inspiring me to update my running shoes. Scott Douglas, thank you.

DOUGLAS: (Laughter) Thanks for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF J. COLE SONG, "KNOCK ON WOOD (FREESTYLE)") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Alejandra Marquez Janse
Alejandra Marquez Janse is a producer for NPR's evening news program All Things Considered. She was part of a team that traveled to Uvalde, Texas, months after the mass shooting at Robb Elementary to cover its impact on the community. She also helped script and produce NPR's first bilingual special coverage of the State of the Union – broadcast in Spanish and English.
Patrick Jarenwattananon
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
Mary Louise Kelly
Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.
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