Take Two®

News and culture through the lens of Southern California. Hosted by A Martínez

Is it possible to break the two-hour marathon barrier or have humans reached their physical limits?

by A Martínez and Lori Galarreta | Take Two®

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At the 2014 Berlin Marathon, Dennis Kimetto set the world record for the marathon at two hours, two minutes and 57 seconds. Via YouTube

Closing ceremonies at the Rio Games are this Sunday. It's also the men's marathon final, but don't expect any records to be broken at that event. The world record for covering the 26.2 miles is two hours, two minutes and 57 seconds. It was set by Kenya's Dennis Kimetto at the Berlin Marathon in 2014.

For fans of distance running, the possibility of a person one day running the marathon in under two hours is a topic that sparks a lot of debate. Some say human beings are pretty much at their physical limits right now. Others think it's not a matter of if as much as when.

Andrew Bosch is one of those people. He's a professor of sports science and physiology, and part of a project called SUB2HR.

They believe that a sub-two-hour marathon can happen in 5 years by "applying a dedicated scientific approach."

For more, Bosch joined Take Two host and distance running aficionado A Martinez via Skype and he began by speaking about what the project entails.

Interview Highlights

What does this project entail?

"A lot of debate has raged for a long time now about whether anybody would ever be able to run under two hours for the marathon and if so, when would that be possible. There are those who say it'll never happen, those that will say it'll happen but in decades time from now and then some of us are thinking well, maybe we can speed up the process a little bit if we take the very best runners in the world and apply the best that science and medicine and everything else around sports science has to offer and take this group and really focus on trying to get the time down to sub two hours or as close to two hours as possible.

So, if we apply nutrition, medicine, world-class training, discussion with those have coaches, with the coaches and so on. We hope that we can speed the process up and achieve that sub two hours sooner rather than later, somewhat like the first attempt at the sub-four minute mile. People said that couldn't happen and this might be the same sort of thing."

Via SUB2HR website

What would you say is one of the biggest obstacles to running a sub-two hour marathon?

"One of the obstacles with the sub-four minute mile was psychological and I think that could well be a factor here as well. Another very simple thing, but maybe very important, is the way that top marathons currently are run, is you have something like a London marathon or Berlin or something like that and there's huge prize money and amongst the top contenders in the race, everybody wants to try and win that first prize so there's very little in terms of helping one another.

So a very simple way to maybe change that would be to think about a prize structure where all the athletes involved in the sub two hour attempt are all running for a common cause and that common cause is to run two hours and the prize structure is such that if that is achieved that all get X amount and there's not huge purse to any one athlete. That will encourage them to help each other and to enable drafting in the same as in back racing. It's still fast enough that the air resistance effect is quite big and that'll be worth a minute, a minute and a half, something like that alone."

Have you considered that what you're doing could be a futile effort? That maybe we have reached a plateau for our physical abilities.

"Yeah, it could be. I'd like to believe it isn't and I think every so often when you start thinking that maybe a record is stuck and the next thing it does move along and I'm going to use the example of Ayana in the women's 10,00 meter, she took a cracking something like 15 seconds almost off the world record. And you know, that record has stood for a long time and it seemed like virtually untouchable, she breaks is by these 15 odd seconds so I think we've got to be careful about saying where the limits lie.

On the one hand, one tends to think, 'okay, this record hasn't moved for a long time maybe this is the limit,' then something like that happens. On the other hand, logically you've got to say that yes, indeed there has to be a limit, somewhere there's a limit. But, we'd like to explore that and find art and if nothing else, move the record closer towards two hours..."

To hear the full interview, click the blue play button above.

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