Running a Marathon, 100 Meters at a Time

Kevin Lyons, an Austin-based runner, journalist, and blogger at, posted an interesting take on how speed is indeed relative when compared to distance covered.

Kenya’s Patrick Makau set the world record time for a marathon by running the Berlin Marathon in 2 hours, 3 minutes, 38 seconds (2:03:38). Makau’s minute-per-mile pace was a blistering 4 minutes, 43 seconds (4:43).

Anybody that runs knows how fast 4:43 is. But to a non-runner, that expression of time means nothing. They know it’s hard to run a marathon because of the distance, 26.2 miles. And in their heads, they can imagine how far 26.2 miles is; the round-trip commute to and from work; the distance from Austin to Round Rock; etc.

But when you tell them you ran the marathon in 3 hours or 4 hours, they wouldn’t have the foggiest idea of the difference in effort.

So, here’s an idea: Take your friend to the nearest football field. Put them on the goal line and tell them to run as fast as they can to the goal post at the other end (110 yards or about 100 meters). I’m pretty sure that most healthy, able-bodied people in reasonably good shape could cover 100 meters in 18 seconds or less. (For perspective, Usain Bolt’s 100-meter world record time is 9.58 seconds.)

Now, before you scoff at an 18-second 100-meter dash time, tell your friend to repeat the process about 420 times.

Without stopping. That’s how fast Makau ran.

100m split in seconds       min/mile pace        marathon finish time
18                                                4:50                                 2:04:21
25                                                6:43                                 2:55:59
35                                                9:24                                 4:06:17
40                                                10:45                               4:41:39

4 Responses to “Running a Marathon, 100 Meters at a Time”

  1. A variation of that is: Get them on a bicycle and ride by one of those “Your Speed Is” radar indicators. Most likely, they’ll be at about 12-13 miles per hour, tops.

    Then say, “Makau RAN this fast… for TWO HOURS”

  2. Then again… I was in Berlin, at the 70m mark, about 5 yards off the track, when Usain Bolt ran his 9.58. When he ran by me, he was at almost 30 miles an hour!

    Realizing that if he was running down my street, he’d be given a speeding ticket… well, that puts things in perspective, too 😉

  3. Anyone know what heart rate (assuming aerobic) Makau runs at?

    • MarkC says:

      Not sure and he Makau likely is at a comfortable “talk test” past for most of his early season mileage . Remember though that these guys are different. They have built their massive aerobic engines from the time their parents stopped carrying them. No cars, car seats, school buses, eetc….they have covered 1000’s of easy miles before ever “training”. Outside of their massive aerobic engines the East Africans use amazing elastic recoil in their strides with huge hip extension and perfect posture and arm position.

      watch this video i just clipped


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