Not since the days of the first sub-four-minute mile has one barrier attracted so much focus in the world of athletics, but talk of the first sub-two-hour marathon has reignited after Eliud Kipchoge’s 2:01:39 run at the Berlin Marathon on Sunday (16).

The 33-year-old Kenyan ran alone for the final 17 kilometres of the race in the German capital but his pace increased as the race went on. After covering the first half in 1:01:06, Kipchoge ran 1:00:33 for the final 13.1 miles to take one minute and 18 seconds off the marathon world record set by Dennis Kimetto in 2014.

It was the single biggest improvement on a men’s marathon world record for 51 years. An improvement of just 100 seconds more is now needed for the first sub-two-hour marathon.

Marathon world record progression

2:12:00 Morio Shigematsu (JPN) Chiswick 1965
2:09:36.4 Derek Clayton (AUS) Fukuoka 1967
2:08:33.6 Derek Clayton (AUS) Antwerpen 1969
2:08:18 Rob de Castella (AUS) Fukuoka 1981
2:08:05 Steve Jones (GBR) Chicago 1984
2:07:12 Carlos Lopes (POR) Rotterdam 1985
2:06:50 Belayneh Densimo (ETH) Rotterdam 1988
2:06:05 Ronaldo da Costa (BRA) Berlin 1998
2:05:42 Khalid Khannouchi (MAR) Chicago 1999
2:05:38 Khalid Khannouchi (USA) London 2002
2:04:55 Paul Tergat (KEN) Berlin 2003
2:04:26 Haile Gebrselassie (ETH) Berlin 2007
2:03:59 Haile Gebrselassie (ETH) Berlin 2008
2:03:38 Patrick Makau (KEN) Berlin 2011
2:03:23 Wilson Kipsang (KEN) Berlin 2013
2:02:57 Dennis Kimetto (KEN) Berlin 2014
2:01:39 Eliud Kipchoge (KEN) Berlin 2018