Daniel Romanchuk of the U.S. recently shattered the wheelchair marathon world record, posting an unofficial time of 1:13:57. The 22-year-old powered to this incredible result in his run for the New York City Marathon’s virtual event, which is why the record is not ratifiable. Compared to the last couple of years, 2020 has been a quiet season for Romanchuk. In 2018, he won the Chicago and New York City marathons, and last year, he repeated as champion at both races and added wins in Boston and London as well. The pandemic has prevented him from racing internationally, but with his virtual result, he’s shown his rivals that he’ll still be the man to beat when races finally resume.
The existing record for the men’s wheelchair marathon is 1:20:14, which Swiss athlete Heinz Frei set in 1999. Since then, Frei’s compatriot Marcel Hug has gone faster, but his 1:18:04 result from the 2017 Boston Marathon isn’t the official record because the Boston course, being a point-to-point, net downhill course, is not record-eligible.
While Romanchuk’s result is unofficial as well, it has put the rest of the wheelchair racing community on notice less than a year out from the Tokyo Paralympics. He completed his 42.2K virtual race in Champaign, Ill., on a flat and straight course, averaging more than 34K per hour throughout the ride (Frei averaged just over 31K per hour in his record-setting race).
Already a six-time World Marathon Major champion, Romanchuk is clearly still improving and only getting faster. He raced at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio, but he didn’t compete in the marathon, instead focusing on the track. Just 18 at the time, Romanchuk undoubtedly gained a lot of valuable experience in Rio, although he didn’t post any head-turning results. Now, four years later, that’s all he seems to do, and his unofficial marathon record will almost certainly not be the last incredible result of his career.