Sondre Moen Makes History, Smashes European Record in Marathon to Win Fukuoka in 2:05:48

December 3, 2017

Norway’s Sondre Moen made history on Sunday in Japan as he captured the 2017 Fukuoka Marathon in a new European record of 2:05:48 and in the process became the first person born outside of Africa to break 2:06 on a record-eligible course. American Ryan Hall ran 2:04:58 on the wind-aided and net-downhill Boston course in 2011. The fastest time by a runner not born in Africa on a record-eligible course before today was 2:06:05 achieved by Ronaldo da Costa when he ran his world record in Berlin in 1998.

2012 Olympic champ Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda ended up second in 2:07:10 as the Nike Oregon Project’s Suguru Osako was third in big pb of 2:07:19.

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Sondre Moen Makes History in Fukuoka

Sondre Moen Makes History in Fukuoka

The Race

The early stages of the race went very much according to the plan as the leaders hit halfway in 63:19. Pre-race favorite Bedan Karoki, the Japanese-based Kenyan, had told Japan Running News his plan was to run 3:00 per km for the first 30k (3 min per k is 2:06:36 pace).

At 30k (1:30:07), the 26-year-old Moen, who ran a 27:55 10k in September and a 59:48 half marathon in October as he prepared for Fukuoka, and Karoki were side by side and on 2:06:45 pace as the lead pack still had six men. Karoki then pushed and lowered the pace down to 2:55 for the 31st km and Moen responded and went with him. The two would hammer the 5k between 30 and 35k in 14:38 and at 35k (1:44:44) they were on 2:06:16 pace, and 18 seconds clear of third placer Osako.

But soon Moen was all alone and for good reason as he was flying. According to Brett Larner of Japan Running News, Moen covered the 37th km in 2:53 (that’s 4:38 mile pace, 14:25 5k pace, and 2:01:40 marathon pace). Moen hit 40k in 1:59:22 (2:05:55 pace) meaning he ran the 35k to 40k in 14:38. Moen wasn’t experiencing your typical late marathon gradual slowdown. From 40k to the finish, he basically maintained that exact 14:38 5k pace (he ran it at 4:43 mile pace/14:39 for 5k) to get the European record and sub-2:06 clocking.

Behind him, Karoki faded to fourth (2:08:44) as the Olympic champ Kiprotich passed Osako to grab second.

Video of Moen winning:

Fukuoka Results
Top 10
this tweet
1) Sondre Nordstad Moen Norway 2:05:48 
2) Stephen Kiprotich Uganda 2:07:10 
3) Suguru Osako Japan 2:07:19 
4) Bedan Karoki Kenya 2:08:44 
5) Amanuel Mesel Eritrea 2:09:22 
6) Daisuke Uekado Japan 2:09:27  
7) Yoshiki Takenouchi Japan 2:10:01 
8) Michael Githae  Kenya 2:10:46 
9) Yuki Kawauchi Japan 2:10:53 
10) Takuya Fukatsu Japan 2:12:04
Tyler Pennel of the USA and Thomas Docanto of Australia both ran high 2:14s according to this tweet by Japan Running News.

Fastest non-African-born marathoners ever (record-eligible courses)

  1. 2:05:48 Sondre Moen, Norway 2017 Fukuoka
  2. 2:06:05 Ronaldo da Costa, Brazil 1998 Berlin
  3. 2:06:16 Toshinari Takaoka, Japan 2002 Chicago
  4. 2:06:17 Ryan Hall, USA 2008 London
  5. 2:06:34 Marilson Gomes dos Santos, Brazil 2011 London

The previous European record was the 2:06:10 from Kaan Kigen Özbilen of Turkey (aka Mike Kigen, formerly of Kenya).

Moen all alone in Fukuoka

Moen all alone in Fukuoka

Quick Take #1: Moen’s improvement in 2017 has been incredible

This was Moen’s fourth career marathon. He debuted in Florence in November 2015, running 2:12:54 for 4th, and that was good enough to earn selection to the Norwegian Olympic team, where he ran 2:14:17 in Rio to finish 19th. In April, he ran a two-minute PR of 2:10:07 to finish third in Hannover, Germany, before shedding four minutes and 19 seconds from that time today.

His half marathon progression is just as staggering. Moen debuted in the half in 2011, running 64:05, and after improving to 62:48 in 2012, he remained very consistent. Here are his half marathon SBs from 2012 through 2016:

2012: 62:48
2013: N/A
2014: 62:59
2015: 62:32
2016: 62:19

And even during the first half of 2017, Moen’s results were around what you would expect given his previous background. In February 2017, he ran 62:25 at the RAK Half. In July he lowered his track pb from 13:30 to 13:20 in the B heat of Heusden. He ran the 5,000 at Worlds, but finished 14th in his heat and was eliminated.

It was only after Worlds that he really began to take off. In September, he ran 27:55 on the roads for 10k in Prague, 20 seconds faster than his track pb. Then he made a massive breakthrough at the Valencia Half Marathon in October, clocking 59:47 to become the third-fastest European ever.

Moen’s incredible improvement has come after changing coaches to Renato Canova, whom Moen has been working with since September 2016 according to this article (in German). Moen trained in Kenya for both of his marathon buildups in 2017.

Today Moen ran 2:06:45 pace for 30k, and then the final 12.195k he ran 2:03:24 pace. He’s a completely different runner for long-distances than he was a year ago.

While his improvement in 2017 has been mind-boggling, it’s not to say Moen wasn’t a talent. Much like Ryan Hall (see QT #2 for more), he showed talent a young age but nothing amazing until he turned to the road. Moen did run a Norwegian youth record of 8:12 for 3k at age 17 when he also ran a Norwegian junior record of 14:02. At age 20, he ran 13:30 for 5k.

MB: SONDRE MOEN of Norway runs 2:05:48 (!!!)to win the 2017 Fukuoka Marathon. How did he do it?

QT #2: The parallels between Moen and Ryan Hall

When the pale figure of Moen boldly took the lead before 30k, we immediately felt like we were taking a trip in a time machine to ten years ago, when Ryan Hall boldly led the 2007 London Marathon at 35k in his debut.

Hall lead London at 35k in 2007

After leading at 35k, Hall ‘only’ ended up with a 2:08:24 and he’d end up running his 2:06:17 record-eligible best in London the next year. Today, Moen was better as he ran 2:05:48 and got the win, but today’s run wasn’t Moen’s first marathon and the parallels between Moen and Hall go beyond the fact they both have white skin and weren’t born in Africa. Their PRs at anything less than a half-marathon however, are quite pedestrian by world class standards very similar.

PRs at 5k when they ran their marathon PB: Hall 13:16, Moen 13:20
PRs at 10k when they ran their marathon PB: Hall 28:07, Moen 28:15 (27:55 road)
PRs at half marathon when they ran their marathon PB: Hall 59:47, Moen 59:48.
Age when they ran their marathon PBs: Hall 25, Moen 26.


Suguru Osaka breaks tape for first Japanese

QT:  Suguru Osako gets NOP marathon record

Suguru Osako of the Nike Oregon Project had a tremendous run to finish third in 2:07:19 today and assistant coach Pete Julian was on hand to give him a hug at the finish.

Here’s the Nike Oregon Project marathon record board:

Suguru Osako 2:07:19
Dathan Ritzenhein 2:07:47
Mo Farah* 2:08:21
Galen Rupp 2:09:20

*Farah and Ritzenhein have since left the NOP, but Galen Rupp, the guy with the most credentials and success in the marathon, is now the slowest in the group, which shows marathon PBs aren’t the end-all, be-all. And while we’re speaking of PBs, coach Alberto Salazar ran 2:08:13 to win New York, but the course was roughly 27 seconds short at his pace.

Editor’s note: Initially we left off Ritzenhein’s 2:07:47 from 2012 Chicago

Video of Osako’s finish and hug by Pete Julian:

Talk about the race on our fan forum/ messageboard:

*MB: Official 2017 Fukuoka Marathon Discussion Thread
MB: SONDRE MOEN of Norway runs 2:05:48 (!!!)to win the 2017 Fukuoka Marathon. How did he do it?

Note: Much of this recap was helped greatly by the great work of Brett Larner of Japan Running News. Follow him on Twitter at @JRNHeadlines or if you want tons of mid-race updates at @JRNLive.

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