It took four men to do it, but the Kenyan squad competing in the ground-breaking Morrisons Great Newham London Run 4 x ¼ Marathon Team Relay managed to better the individual world record for the classic 26.2 mile distance at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in East London this afternoon.
The Kenyan quartet of Mike Kigen, Cypran Kotut, Dickson Chumba and Stephen Sambu each ran 10.54m, exactly a quarter of the full marathon distance, and finished in the London 2012 Olympic Stadium with a combined time of 2 hours 02 minutes 56 seconds.
In doing so, they were just a single second inside the world marathon record figures of 2 hours 02 minutes 57 seconds that their countryman Dennis Kimetto recorded in Berlin in September last year.
“It shows how good the world record time for the marathon is,” said Sambu, who won the Morrisons Great Manchester Run 10km race in May. “It would be good to try it again, to see if we could get closer to two hours. It was windy today but I enjoyed the event. It was good fun.”
Each runner started and finished in the Olympic Stadium and passed through it midway through their laps. Chumba recorded the fastest 10.54km split, running 30 minutes 06 seconds, with Kigen clocking 30:36, Sambu 30:37 and Kotut 31.05. Changeover times were also involved.
The British men's quartet – Callum Hawkins, Andrew Heyes, Andy Butchart and Luke Caldwell – finished in 2 hours 13 minutes 27 seconds. “It makes you appreciate Steve Jones' British record [2 hours 07 minutes 13 seconds] and how quick Mo Farah ran in the London Marathon last year [2 hours 08 minutes 21 seconds],” said Caldwell. “Those times are tough times.
“Unfortunately, I'm not running too well myself at the moment, which didn't help us, but it was an interesting event.”
The splits for the GB men – minus transition times – were Hawkins 32:20, Heyes 32:23, Butchart 33:32, Caldwell 34:40.
The race also features a Great Britain's women's team. Lauren Howarth, Beth Potter, Rhona Auckland and Jess Coulson finished in 2 hours 29 minutes 34 seconds – putting into perspective the world record time of 2 hours 15 minutes 25 seconds set in the 2003 London Marathon by Great Run Ambassador Paula Radcliffe.
“I saw Paula here earlier today and it just shows you what an amazing athlete she was,” said Coulson, the Stockport Harrier who finished fourth in the 2015 European Cup 10,000m track race. “She ran four 32 minute 10km splits back to back to get that record, which is just phenomenal.
“It was good to do an event that's something different. There was a great atmosphere and we had a lot of support out on the course. And to get to run in the Olympic Stadium was a wonderful experience.”
The GB women's splits were: Howarth 37:26, Potter 38:22, Auckland 37:11 and Coulson 35:54.