Huffines Institute Director's Blog

Boston's incredible marathon.....

Boston's incredible marathon.....

Human performance still surprises the most cynical of us and truly shows that the machine we call the human body is capable of incredible feats.  Yesterday (April 18, 2011), Geoffrey Mutai and Moses Mosop both ran the Boston Marathon in times approaching 2 hours and 3 mins, with Mutai winning in an official time of 2:03:02.  What is amazing about this time (and Mosop's of 2:03:06) is that the world record in the marathon is currently 2:03:59 and that Mutai's time clipped almost a full minute off of the world record.  In fact, the last three times the marathon world record has been set, it has only been lowered by an average of 33 seconds each time, so knocking 57 seconds off the record is a great run.  (For clarification, neither Mutai's or Mosop's times will be counted as world records because of the tailwind that was blowing as well as the fact that the Boston course is considered downhill and is a point-to-point course).

For some context on why these times were so incredible, realize that because a marathon is 26.2 miles, Mutai averaged 4 minutes and 42 seconds per mile of the race!  Yes, this was 26.2 miles, running at an average speed of almost 13 miles per hour!  While we can all go 13 miles per hour in cars and on bicycles and that seems slow, I challenge you to go out and run at 13 mph for any length of time...that is amazingly fast for an amazing length of time.

And yes, the wind probably increased the speed of the race - several other blogs - such as the excellent Science of Sport blog - have debated what effect the tailwind had on the time for the race and have estimated that Mutai gained 2-3% from the wind.  Even so, he ran the last 10 km (6.2 miles) in 28 minutes, 25 seconds, a jaw-dropping 4:35 pace - amazing for someone who has already run 20 miles.  Plus, the pace at Boston is usually about 3 minutes slower than the final pace at the other big, world-marathons, so this performance was truly unique, wind-aided or not.

At this point, you may be wondering why we're talking about this today.  All too often, the athletic prowess and accomplishments of many athletes, whether they be curlers, javelin throwers, baseball players, football players, etc. seems commonplace.  We tell ourselves, "that is what they do and of course they should do it well".  Some of us may even delude ourselves by thinking that if we had the right training and the time, we also could do such feats.  However, in the midst of making the exceptional commonplace, we forget to wonder and be awed by what are truly great performances and capabilities of the human body.  For example, the human body, when you go from rest to maximal exercise increases it's delivery of oxygen to the muscles by over 13-fold (that 1,300%!); the amount of blood pumped by the heart per minute can go from about 5 liters per minute to about 60 liters per minute.  Think about that for a moment - your heart at maximal exercise is pumping 30, 2-liter soda bottles full of blood through your body.  And in elite endurance athletes like Mutai, the amount of pumped blood per minute can be as high as 70-80 liters per minute. That really is incredible....

So I encourage you, take a moment and be in awe of Geoffrey Mutai's Boston Marathon time.  Wind-aided or not, Mutai's run was an incredible piece of running and an amazing athletic feat.  And of course, his performance has only fanned the flames of the debate about when a human will run a marathon in less than 2 hours.  But that is a discussion for another blog....

In the meantime, stay active and stay healthy (and stay in awe of what your body can and does do!).



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