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Coolsaet, Jornet beat Bekele in NN Running virtual marathon relay

The MA RA TH ON relay attracted more than 100,000 participants over the weekend, including some of the world's best runners

Reid Coolsaet

The NN Running Team and Maurten held a virtual relay called MA RA TH ON on June 6 and 7. More than 100,000 people worldwide participated, including Canadian Olympian Reid Coolsaet, who finished 19th overall. Each team consisted of four runners (or five, in some cases), with each participant running 10.5K. Coolsaet averaged a pace of 3:00 per kilometre for a final time of 31:34, which put him in the top 20 and over a minute ahead of Kenenisa Bekele. Spanish ultrarunner Kilian Jornet also beat Bekele, finishing in 27th place.

MA RA TH ON results

Half-marathon world record-holder and 2019 New York City Marathon champion Geoffrey Kamworor took the overall win in the MA RA TH ON, running his 10.5K relay leg (he actually ran 10.6K) in 30:08, which is 2:51-per-kilometre pace. On the women’s side, 2019 Berlin Marathon champion Ashete Bekere won with a finishing time of 34:15 (also for 10.6K) for an average pace of 3:14 per kilometre.

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The relay champions for both the men and women races were the ASICS Team Tempo Elite teams from Australia. The men’s team won with a finishing time of 2:03:06, far off Eliud Kipchoge‘s official and unofficial marathon records of 2:01:39 and 1:59:40. The ASICS women’s crew won in 2:42:03, also way behind the world record of 2:14:04 set by Brigid Kosgei at the Chicago Marathon in 2019. This goes to show how incredibly quick the world’s best marathoners really are—teams of elite runners cannot even match the current world records when they split the marathon into four parts.

Elite teammates

Some teams got an exciting surprise when they were joined by elites from the NN Running Team. Kamworor teamed up with a group of runners from the U.S., 5K world record-holder Joshua Cheptegei ran with the Spaniards, Bekele joined a Dutch team and Kipchoge raced with a few Brazilian athletes. In these few cases, the teams of five added their times together and found the average time for the 10.5K legs to determine their finishing times.

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Beating Bekele

Coolsaet teamed up with fellow Olympian Nick Willis and two American runners, Tyler McCandless and Mason Ferlic. Both Coolsaet (31:34) and Willis (32:29) beat Bekele, who finished in 32:57 in 48th place. Jornet proved he has some serious speed despite being more accustomed to long-distance mountain running, and he averaged 3:03-per-kilometre pace to finish the 10.5K in in 32:25.

In total, 106,698 people participated in the virtual relay, and the field covered a collective 844,134 kilometres over the course of the two days, which is equal to 21 laps of the globe.