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Marathon times at altitude

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  • Marathon times at altitude

    In going through Quercetani's (2000) book, I noted that he listed Abebe Bikila has having run 2.21:23 in 1960 (second competitive effort?), at Addis Ababa, altitude 2400m.

    Not having followed marathons too closely, what's the "low down" on runs at altitude in the intervening 43 years? Are marathons often run at considerable altitude (say >1000 m)? If Bikila's time from 1960 is "real" was that truly outstanding or not?

  • #2
    Re: Marathon times at altitude

    I would say it was very outstanding. I recently ran a marathon at 1000m altitude after having trained at near sea-level and noticed a very real difference. Mulitiply this by 2.4 and I have a great deal of respect for that 1960 time. Unfortunatly in recent years not many very top notch marathoners who have consistant world class times have run marathons at significant altitude so that we can get a measure on what the time differenctial effect may be.

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    • #3
      Re: Marathon times at altitude

      no more than Mamo Wolde's 2:20:26 in the 2300m altitude of Mexico City.

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      • #4
        Re: Marathon times at altitude

        <no more than Mamo Wolde's 2:20:26 in the 2300m altitude of Mexico City.>

        I guess this may answer it. For Kimihara (not born and trained at high altitude) ran 2:23 and change in Mexico City. With this very limited data, it appears that well trained people do not slow down all that much in marathons at altitude.

        No disrespect shown to you, ultrarunner. Going straight from sea level to 1000 m, obviously affected your running.

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        • #5
          Re: Marathon times at altitude

          "No disrespect shown to you, ultrarunner"

          None taken. It obviously has an effect but we just don't have much actual performance data from races to tell us how big of an effect.

          I suspect that would very as well for each individual and what their background and limiting factors are. (i.e living at altitude, VO2 max, etc.)

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          • #6
            Re: Marathon times at altitude

            The difference in marathons for a sea-level athlete in 7500ft is around 7-9% slower.

            Ron Daws who ran 2:33:09 at the Alamosa Oly Trials and a nearly identical time at Mexico City (although he slowed somewhat from 30k-40km because of a cramp).

            This would equate Mamo Wolde's 2:20 in 68 to a 2:10 at sea level.

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            • #7
              Re: Marathon times at altitude

              <The difference in marathons for a sea-level athlete in 7500ft is around 7-9% slower.>

              If your figures are right, Abebe Bikila ran the equivalent of about 2 hours 10 min at sea level in 1960, in his second competitive marathon. If that is even close to correct, he has to be rated as the greatest marathoner ever.

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              • #8
                Re: Marathon times at altitude

                I should have added that it would probably go 7% for altitude athletes, 9% for sea-levelers.

                Abebe was way way ahead of his time. You know this, but it should be said, that running a 2:15 marathon over cobblestones, barefoot in Rome's summer heat speaks volumes of his ability.

                And then 2:12, much of it by himself, after a month of zero running, and doing it so relaxed. He said he could have kept running for atleast another 10k, easily.

                I don't know the exact nature of the Athens course, but the winner just ran 2:15 there.

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