4 Reasons for the New 2018 World Half Marathon Record

When the date for the 28th Valencia Half Marathon finally arrived in late October, there should’ve been no doubt that the world half marathon record was under threat.

Kenya’s Abraham Kiptum lowered the eight-and-a-half-year mark by five seconds, recording 58:18. But it wasn’t just the flat course that ensured a spectacular result in Spain’s third largest city.

#1 Special Conditions

The course is perfect for running fast not only due to the absence of hills, but also the relatively few changes in direction, beautiful weather and remarkable history of the event. Since 2017 Valencia has been home to the women’s world record for the half marathon, both in a mixed gender race and women-only race.

Not only does Valencia name itself ‘The Running City’, hosting over fifty running events in 2018 alone, the half marathon is recognised by the IAAF as gold label. The strict conditions of this highest honour include international elite athletes, anti-doping testing and broadcasting of the event.

The lesson for all runners is to make the most of excellently organised and well supported running races, as they can empower better performances.

#2 Competitors Slowing

As runners passed 10km the lead pack suddenly lost the impetus to push on. But Kiptum knew that if he was to win this was the time to strike. His surge proved how strong the Kenyan felt, knowing instinctively that he could maintain sub fourteen minute 5km splits over the second half of the race.

Refusing to lead for the first 10km would certainly have eased him into the race, conserving slightly more energy than his rivals.

The lesson for all runners is to use the first half of a race to measure feeling. If strong, then increase the pace gradually to the end.

#3 Efficient Stride

Kiptum’s running form was particularly prominent throughout his world record performance. His bouncy, long stride and high knee lift suggested a rhythm that was efficient and relatively comfortable. His hips stayed high, which revealed his impressive core strength. His arm swings were driven and his eyes fixed on the road ahead.

Despite his serene movements, Kiptum demonstrated intense concentration and bravery to tackle the feat.

The lesson for all runners is to focus on developing and maintaining a solid foundation of core strength and stability. This will aid the body to deal with the relatively high impact of running lots of miles.

#4 Excellent Recent Performances

Kiptum’s 2018 had included a marathon win in Daegu back in April, and a second place finish in Copenhagen’s half marathon in mid September. The breakthrough year would’ve built the Kenyan’s confidence, so winning would have certainly been at the forefront of his mind. As long as he ran steadily, his training would’ve given him the knowledge that anything was possible.

With nine other Africans finishing in under an hour, if Kiptum had faltered others would’ve pounced.

The lesson for all runners is to use any positive training runs or races as inspiration whilst performing.

Coping with Postponed Events

There will always be factors outside of a runner’s control.

One of them is the weather.

Unfortunately races get cancelled or postponed when the weather is deemed by the organisers as too treacherous.

It happened this weekend with the occurrence of more snow in the United Kingdom. The Roger One Mile time-trial scheduled for this afternoon (which I intended to race) and a local half marathon tomorrow (which two runners I coach had entered) have been postponed.

It is the first time this has affected my running.

Despite the initial disappointment, the calling off of an event should be no reason to prevent mine or anyone else’s progress. This relies on always having an alternative plan.

For example, for my One Mile Challenge, I always intended to attempt my goal at least three times, with adequate rest in between attempts. This meant I didn’t have to rely on only one occasion, with certain conditions and preparations. It also allows me to experiment, using experience to guide me.

The Roger One Mile time-trial would be on a local track ‘racing’ with others, and my other two attempts would be run alone along self-devised routes on flat surfaces such as pavement and road.

Even for longer distances you can easily research another race ahead of time that you would be available to race if required. Likewise, a self-organised race (in the form of a virtual race) can provide the necessary motivation to meet your goal. Although the crowds or traffic-free route may not be present, I believe this is one way to build self-confidence and mitigate the inevitable issues of externally-organised events.

My advice also applies when illnesses, injuries or emergencies stop you from participating in a running race. If you prepare well in advance for any potential problems you’ll have an effective psychological technique to cope with other setbacks that occur in training and in the off-season.

This can easily be incorporated into your racing strategy long before you travel to the start line. 

You’ll then become a more resilient runner that has, paradoxically, greater control over your running.

The Meaningful History of Running

For the Love of Running: A Companion (2017 edition) by Paul Owen

History of Running

Evidence of organised running, taking place almost 6,000 years ago, has been found in Ancient Egypt. Runners were then used widely in Ancient Greece to courier messages huge distances, long before professional runners existed in the 1700s.

Events such as Paper Chase consisted of a lead runner (the ‘hare’) laying a paper trail for other runners (the ‘hounds’) to chase. This would soon lead to the formation of modern running clubs, some of which contain ‘harriers’ (meaning hounds) in their names. Modern sports such as rugby and football also have their roots in running.

Meaning of Running

As famous coach Bill Bowerman highlighted, if you can find personal attachment in running then life will become richer

Running distracts you from any negativity in your life (attributed to Monte Davis) and motivates you to make more effort to achieve greater results (explained by Oprah). If you listen to you body you will find over time you can tolerate more and better respect your limits (outlined by John Bingham).

Running requires a masterful control of emotions and reasoning, where the only enemy is oneself (suggested by Glenn Cunningham).

Fascinating Facts

Now that marathon races are held across the globe, a lucrative industry that produces impressive records has developed.

The oldest races in the USA are the Buffalo Turkey Trot in New York (since 1896), the Boston Marathon (since 1897), and the Yonkers Marathon (since 1907). The world’s longest standing ultramarathons include the Comrades Marathon (since 1921), the Pieter Korkie 50km (since 1948) and the London 2 Brighton 100km (since 1951).

  • The longest streak in the same event was set by Mike McLeod in 1989, having won the Saltwell Harriers 10k sixteen times in a row
  • The UK’s David and Linda Major ran 1,050 marathons together as a married couple setting a new world record. 
  • In 1978, the quickest marathon run barefoot was set by India’s Shivnath Singh in  2:12:00
  • The largest footrace ever recorded was in the Philippines, with over 116,000 finishers.

Sadly, throughout history, running has also reflected gender and racial inequalities, as well as conflict between professionals and amateurs. Thankfully, more than ever  before, people are reaping the  personal and communal benefits of the sport.