THE first runner to complete a marathon in under two hours will be remembered forever – on a par with Roger Bannister completing a mile in less than four minutes.
It will push human endurance to its limits in a feat so gruelling that some believe it is impossible. An athlete would have to maintain a blistering pace of more than 13 miles an hour – faster than most people cycle – to achieve it.
But plenty of fitness fanatics are willing to give it a try – and turned out in force at a special event held yesterday to test their mettle.
Running on a treadmill at Footworks in Bruntsfield, they were given a taste of the sort of endurance needed to smash the elusive world record. Even seasoned runners were reduced to sweat-soaked heaps within minutes, gasping for breath as they attempted to keep the sub-two hour pace going.
The event, which included a summer fair on the Meadows, was raising cash for emergency team Medic One and promote the benefits of exercise.
David Macivor, 32, an IT worker from Livingston who managed to keep running at 13mph for 97 seconds, said: “It’s mind-blowing that anyone could do that for any length of time.”
Jenny Ross, 28, of Trinity, who kept going for 80 seconds, added: “It’s harder than I expected, and it’s incredible that someone could maintain that pace for two hours.”
But Ed Caesar, inset below, author of Two Hours: The Quest to Run the Impossible Marathon, believes the remarkable feat will happen, possibly within the next few decades.
Speaking immediately after running for two minutes and four seconds, he said: “It’s not easy. It’s ridiculous. That was brutal. That was a sprint.
“But the guy who is going to do this will be half my weight, 50 times my talent and he won’t have just eaten a hog roast.”
Seasoned ultra-runner Dr Andrew Murray, of Edinburgh University’s Centre of Sports and Exercise, helped to organise the event along with Ed’s brother Dr David Caesar, a consultant in emergency medicine at the Royal Infirmary.
Dr Murray managed to run for five minutes and two seconds, the longest time of those who attempted the challenge.
He said: “I could feel my breath getting quicker and quicker and the lactic acid build up in my calves and thighs. At that pace, it felt like the end of the race not the beginning.
He added: “To run a marathon in two hours, you would need to run 21.2km per hour, which is faster than many people cycle and when someone completes the two-hour marathon for the first time, it will be like the moment Everest was climbed. But when you get a group of people working hard to beat one another that’s when the record will fall, and the human body works better when it has something to aim towards.”
The world marathon record for men stands at 2:02:57, and was achieved by Kenyan Dennis Kipruto Kimetto. Paula Radcliffe holds the women’s record with a time of 2:15:25.