Let me once again start with a disclaimer. We found Sara Hall and Martin Hehir's run to be incredibly inspiring. We just recorded interviews with both of them for a podcast that will be out in the coming days. The fact that they can run so well while also parenting six kids (and going to med school in one case) is AMAZING.
That doesn't mean we can't ask what does their success really mean moving forward. Jonathan Gault wrote up a "final thoughts article" on the race and one of the comments was this:
The US still has a long way to go to catch up to marathon superpowers Kenya and Ethiopia and even a country like Japan. Galen Rupp remains the only American man capable of challenging for a win at a major marathon. The winner on Sunday in Arizona, Martin Hehir, ran 2:08:59. He is America's fastest marathoner in all of 2020. That time would have placed him 21st at the Valencia Marathon earlier this month. It would have placed him 25th in Tokyo in March, where 15 men from Japan alone ran faster than 2:08:59. Even with limited racing opportunities, 46 Ethiopians, 21 Kenyans, and 20 Japanese ran faster this year. Hehir is the 111th-fastest marathoner in the world in 2020. The 111th-fastest 5,000 runner ran 13:35. The 111th 1500 runner ran 3:39. Hehir's pb is 7:20 slower than the world record -- that means he's more than 16 seconds per mile slower than Eliud Kipchoge (16 secs/mile slower than the 5,000 WR is 13:25).
Is it fair to compare Hehir to a 13:30 5000 guy? I know at first glance that you may think, "That's ridiculous." But I think the comparison is pretty accurate. The difference is in the marathon a 13:30 guy is somewhat relevant. In track, if there are 10 really high quality 5000s in a 2 month window, the 10 best guys could easily run in all 10 of them if they really wanted. So if you aren't in the top 10 in the world, you aren't really that relevant.
In the marathon, you can only run one every few months. So if there are 15 races in a season, then the 150th runner is relevant as they could easily be top 10 and maybe top 5 in one of the races.