Bekele's probably the hardest world record to break, by Justin Lagat

Kenenisa Bekele, with Jos Hermans, 
photo by 

Kenenisa Bekele's World records for 10,000 meters and 5,000 meters have been untouched for years. In this piece, Justin Lagat ponders just how fast the man can run over the marathon distance with his WR performances over the distance. 
(Oct. 22)

In my preparation for a marathon race that I am to run in a few days' time, I have been interested in a number of online applications and formula's that can be used to predict one's marathon time given a time one has run in another distance. Some applications can even give you all your potential times in all the other distances, just after you enter a time you posted in one distance. Some of these formulas include: Age grading, VO2max, Riegel's, Cameron's and Purdy's.

I have some reservations concerning these formulas, for example; an athlete doing well in half marathon does not necessarily do well in the full marathon. An example of this is Zersenay Tadese who holds the world record in the half marathon but hasn't been able to run under 2:10 in the marathon. However, there are some runners whose running across these distances reflects these formulas well. Geoffrey Mutai's 27:19 in 10km, 42:15 in 15km, 58:58 in half marathon, 1:28:11 in 30km and 2:04.15 in marathon helps give credibility to most of these formulas, except the Purdy's formula which I did not find it as consistent as the rest, it is somehow unrealistic when it expects a time of 25:35 in 10km to predict a time of 2:03.23 in the marathon. Wilson Kipsang's PB in 10km is 27:32. However, experts explain that Purdy's formula actually work well only for the shorter races.

After closely analyzing these formulas, I got interested in calculating the times some of the greatest long distance athletes have posted in other distances, what they would potentially run in the full marathon and also what the marathon runners would run in the relatively shorter distances. Pete Riegel's formula in particular appeared more practical to me and I decided to use it in my small research.

Of all the IAAF certified records, I found Kenenisa Bekele's time of 26:17.53 in the 10,000m to be the strongest time ever recorded as it indicated predictions faster that the current world records in all the other distances ranging from 5km to 42km, according to almost all the formulas. The time predicted for him in the 5km, according to Riegel's formula, would be 12:36.13, which is faster than his own world record of 12:37.35 by over one second.

Bekele's predicted time in 15km is 40.24.57. Kenya's Leornard Komon holds the world record of the distance in 41.13, and his predicted time in the 10km would be 26:49. This appears to support Riegel's formula more because Komon's real time in the 10km distance is 26:44.
The world record in the half marathon distance is held by Zersenay Tadese at 58:23. Bekele's predicted time in this distance is 58:00.67. Using his half marathon time to predict his time in the 10km, Tadese would run 26:27. His real time in the distance is 26:37.25. A difference of 10 seconds, but still supports the efficiency of Riegel's formula!

Dennis Kimetto holds the 25km world record in a time of 1:11.18. Bekele's predicted time in the distance is 1.09.25 while Kimetto's predicted time in the 10km would be 26:59. And just as to the potential in Kimetto to break the marathon world record after coming close to it both in Berlin last year and in Chicago marathon this year, his predicted time, using his 25km record time, according to Riegel's formula is 2:04.10. Perhaps this should only serve to show us how he is now in a better shape than he was while breaking the 25km world record early last year.

The fastest time recorded for 30km is 1:26.47 by Moses Mosop. Riegel's formula predicts 1:24.13 for Bekele over the same distance.

Kenenisa Bekele himself would be less than a minute short of a sub 2hr marathon time with his predicted time of 2:00.57 over the distance. As he prepares himself to move into marathon running in the near future, I can only imagine, like everyone else, how he will do and whether we will get to see the same dominance he exhibited in the 5,000m and 10,000m events during his peak days.

As for me, I now have one more goal to pursue during my upcoming marathon race; to try and beat the time that Riegel's formula has predicted for me.

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