How Biomechanical Improvements in Running Economy Could Break the 2-hour Marathon Barrier

Sports Med. 2017 Sep;47(9):1739-1750. doi: 10.1007/s40279-017-0708-0.


A sub-2-hour marathon requires an average velocity (5.86 m/s) that is 2.5% faster than the current world record of 02:02:57 (5.72 m/s) and could be accomplished with a 2.7% reduction in the metabolic cost of running. Although supporting body weight comprises the majority of the metabolic cost of running, targeting the costs of forward propulsion and leg swing are the most promising strategies for reducing the metabolic cost of running and thus improving marathon running performance. Here, we calculate how much time could be saved by taking advantage of unconventional drafting strategies, a consistent tailwind, a downhill course, and specific running shoe design features while staying within the current International Association of Athletic Federations regulations for record purposes. Specifically, running in shoes that are 100 g lighter along with second-half scenarios of four runners alternately leading and drafting, or a tailwind of 6.0 m/s, combined with a 42-m elevation drop could result in a time well below the 2-hour marathon barrier.

Keywords: Ethylene Vinyl Acetate; Metabolic Cost; Support Body Weight; World Record.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Body Weight
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology
  • Running / physiology*
  • Shoes
  • Time Factors