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500 below 2.20

Kenyan marathoners break the “500 Barrier” for the year!

It seems every year Kenyan male marathoners set new standards of excellence and 2006 has been no exception.

At last Sunday’s Standard Chartered Marathon in Singapore (3 Dec), Kenyan men recorded their 500th documented sub-2:20 performance of the year, the first time that landmark number has been achieved by any nation in one year.

The sum stood at 499 as of Sunday morning with a number of major races around the world on the calendar that day. But since Singapore is located just one degree north of the equator, that race began at 6 a.m. to lessen the effects of heat and humidity; and its field was the first to finish.

Kenyan Amos Matui was at the very front of it and when informed he had the honour of posting number 500 he said, “This is good, but it was more important that I won,” since that meant a $25,000 paycheck. The current total stands at 514 and with a few more races left in December, such as the Honolulu Marathon, the final figure has yet to be determined.

Last year there were 492 recognized Kenyan performances under 2:20. It should be noted that there were some gaps beyond 2:18:40 from the Standard Chartered Nairobi reported results which might have accounted for another half dozen or so sub-2:20 finishers projected from reviewing similar times at this past October’s race.

The Kenyans have maintained a steady pace this year while heading towards the record, reaching 250 sub-2:20s through June 30. However this does not include eight men from the ING Ottawa Marathon who inadvertently ran 455.5 metres short and would have been sub-2:20 by maintaining their pace for the full distance. Ironically Amos Matui won that race, so had he run the full 42.195 kilometres there then he would not have posted the 500th performance in Singapore!

Slightly behind the 2005 pace at the end of the summer, the Kenyans soon surged ahead, boosted by an October with an astounding 145 sub-2:20 performances at 28 different races.

The number of individual sub-2:20 marathoners for 2006 comes to 371, although some athletes occasionally compete with different versions of their full names which could account for unrecognized duplicates.

Many of the Kenyans themselves expect the number to keep increasing. At Singapore, which contributed six sub-2:20s, Paul Kiptanui – who might have added another had he not fell 50 minutes into the race and still ran under 2:21 – said, “I think next year there will definitely be more than 550.” Emmanuel Koskei, a 2:12 marathoner, believes, “There will be 600 very soon.”

Listed below are the month-by-month totals. Numbers include performances from some courses with significant downhill drops (footnoted in the IAAF Top List marathon summary).

January – 23
February – 31
March – 49
April – 84
May – 43
June – 20
July – 2
August – 17
September – 25
October – 145
November – 50
December – 25 (as of 3 December)

Marty Post for the IAAF

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