Students of running lore are familiar with the Association of Road Racing Statisticians’ (ARRS) many lists. One we find particularly fascinating is its list of marathoners who have clocked repeated sub-3:00 marathons in five different decades.
Yes, you read that right. Not only does the ARRS keep such a list, but it also maintains a list of men and women with the widest span of time between their very fast marathons (there are different lists for different standards, such as sub-3:00, sub-2:45, etc.).
Let’s consider the first list. There are 41 names on it. Most are retired, and some are no longer living. No one has yet run a sub-3 in more than five successive decades, no one has ever come back with a sub-3 after skipping a decade (not surprisingly), and as yet there are no Canadians on the list. Note that the ARRS considers courses that are normally not record-eligible, such as the Boston Marathon, to be legitimate for the purposes of the list. Here is a sampling.
Joan Benoit Samuelson is the only woman on the list. Her first sub-3 was in 1979, her last was in 2010, and she ran sub-3 in the 80s, 90s, and 2000s as well. Samuelson ran 2:24:52 to win the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic marathon, but that was not her fastest marathon in the 1980s (she clocked a 2:21:21 in Chicago the following year).
Don Ritchie was the legendary Scottish ultrarunner who passed away last year, and whose 40-year-old 100K world record (6:10:20) was broken a week later by Japanese ultrarunner Nao Kazami at the Lake Saroma Ultramarathon, with a time of 6:09:14. Ritchie’s first sub-3 was in 1967, and his last was in 2000.
Reno Stirrat is the only American, and one of only two people in the world, to run sub-2:45 in five successive decades. Stirrat, who is from New Jersey, is 64. His last sub-2:45 marathon was the 2010 Boston Marathon.
Vladimir Kotov of Belarus is the only other person in the world besides Reno Stirrat to run sub-2:45 in five different decades. His fastest came at the 1980 Soviet Union Olympic Trials, which he won at age 22 in 2:10:58. He finished fourth in the Olympic marathon in Moscow that year, in 2:12:05.
Ron Lund of Basalt, Colo. is the most recent addition to the list, with his 2:59:15 showing at the Las Vegas Marathon in May, 2016 at the age of 59.