Today in Running History: Fastest Women’s Marathon

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Radcliffe at the London Finish Line, 2003 Photograph: Alastair Grant/AP

Nine years ago today, English runner Paula Radcliffe set the world record for the fastest women’s marathon at the London Marathon. Her time of 2:15:25 was nearly two minutes faster than her previous world record time set in the Chicago Marathon on October 13, 2002.

Radcliffe’s record time has been on the books longer than any other since Ingrid Kristiansen’s 2:21:06, set back in April 21, 1985. Kristiansen’s record held for almost exactly 13 years. How many more years until we see a new Women’s marathon record? Hard to say. Many people think that the rule change last Fall by the IAAF may make it harder for women to set world record times. The IAAF now requires that a time must be set in an all-female competition for it to be a “world record,” rather than “world best.”

The IAAF rule change put an asterisk on Radcliffe’s fastest time and made her time in Chicago the “world record” according to the IAAF record books. It also means women now can’t have male pacers if they want to take a stab at breaking the world record. Many runners are excited about the current crop of top female runners from around the world, and just maybe one of these pros will be able to break through to a new record time. Even so, huge congrats to Paula Radcliffe for her world-record pace.

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