Mutai’s run won’t be a record

By John Powers
Globe Staff / April 28, 2011

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Although Kenya’s Geoffrey Mutai won last week’s Boston Marathon in the fastest time ever run for the distance, his mark of 2 hours 3 minutes and 2 seconds will not be recognized as a world record by the International Association of Athletics Federations.

The Boston Athletic Association, which planned to file an application to have Mutai’s performance recognized as the best over 26.2 miles, was told by an IAAF official that the race’s historic Hopkinton-to-Copley Square layout exceeds its restrictions for maximum elevation drop and as-the-crow-flies distance between the start and finish.

“The IAAF has acted very promptly in working with us to achieve full clarity here,’’ BAA executive director Tom Grilk said in a statement. “We understand and appreciate the role of the IAAF in maintaining standards that were established to protect the integrity of the sport. We all know that we witnessed one of the great days in running history.’’

Mutai, a 29-year-old Kenyan who had never seen the Boston course until a few days before the race, ran nearly a minute faster than the recognized record of 2:03:59 that Ethiopia’s Haile Gebrselassie established on Berlin’s significantly flatter course in 2008 with the help of paid pace-setters.

“When you run Boston and you run faster than any man or woman has ever run a marathon, you truly are in a league of your own,’’ said Jim Gallagher, executive vice president of race sponsor John Hancock Financial Services, which paid Mutai its listed $50,000 bonus for a world best. “John Hancock recognizes this and will proudly continue to reward greatness.’’

While the BAA did not expect the IAAF to certify Mutai’s time, the issue has pointed up contradictions in how the federation draws its distinctions. The IAAF does include Boston performances on its all-time list and acknowledged on its website that Mutai’s time was the “fastest marathon ever.’’ And while Ryan Hall’s clocking of 2:04:58 likely will not be considered an American record by USA Track & Field, the domestic federation will allow it as a qualifier for the Olympic trials in Houston in January.

Many runners consider the Boston layout — most of which has been unchanged since the first race in 1897 — as the most difficult in the world because of its undulating nature and the Newton hills between 17 and 21 miles. The BAA said it would consult with members of the local scientific and medical communities to determine whether other factors could mitigate the course’s non-conforming aspects so that future times could be certified as world marks.

John Powers can be reached at

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