Upon Further Review, Yalemzerf Yehualaw Did Not Run A Record-Breaking 4:43 Mile In The 2022 London Marathon
By Robert Johnson
October 3, 2022
The 2022 TCS London Marathon is in the rearview mirror. As usual, the fields were LOADED, the competition was fierce and we really enjoyed the action. Two of the eye-catching stories from the elite men’s and women’s races were the crazy fast splits put down by the winners late in the race. In the women’s race, Yalemzerf Yehualaw was reported to have run a 4:43 24th mile and men’s winner Amos Kipruto was reported to have run a 4:21 25th mile. However, we’ve got bad news for you: that 4:43 split, which is the fastest ever reported in a women’s marathon, was indeed too good to be true and likely was a 4:59, according to Helmut Winter, the German “Professor of Marathon.”
Winter, a retired professor of physics at Humboldt University of Berlin, developed with his US counterpart Sean Hartnett the “Pace Display System” that assists top athletes with timing information during major marathons. The Pace Display System was used in 18 out of the 20 fastest times in marathon history as of 2018, including recent world records by Wilson Kipsang, Dennis Kimetto, and Eliud Kipchoge in Berlin.
Winter is an expert of sorts on where the mile markers are in London, as for more than 10 years he was in charge of recording the splits. After Yehualaw’s 24th mile got so much press, Winter went back and watched the race broadcast again and determined the 24th-mile split was recorded at the wrong spot. According to Winter, the 24-mile mark in London comes “9.5 meters behind the western end of the Blackfriars Railway Bridge” but if you watch the race broadcast it’s clear it was recorded before the railway bridge (perhaps 9.5 meters before?).
After re-watching the race broadcast, Winter said he estimates Yehualaw’s 24th mile was really a 4:59. He believes that her 25th mile, which was reported as a 5:16, was really a 5:02. That makes more sense as one would expect a runner to be running a more consistent pace instead of just blasting out a crazy, crazy fast single mile. Yes we know we are adding 16 seconds to one mile and subtracting 14 from the other but that’s just because he thinks a couple of other splits were one second off (if you want to say 24 was 4:57 and 25 was 5:02, go ahead).
What about the men? The good news is Winter went back and watched the tape and says the 4:21 25th mile that was reported for Amos Kipruto is accurate. London organizers recorded the start and finish of that mile in the correct spot, probably because the very experienced Hugh Jones, who helped Winter develop a mile marker correction sheet for London, was in the men’s lead truck. Here are some screenshots showing you that the men’s and women’s 24th-mile splits were recorded at totally different spots.
Let this serve as a friendly reminder that the next time you run a marathon and one of your mile splits seems off, don’t panic. Winter said some of the official mile markers put out by race organizers aren’t in the correct spot as they can’t necessarily put out a mile marker on the side of the road ahead of time if it comes near a bridge for example. He said that in London “some mile markers were not at the correct positions,” which has been confirmed by others on the messageboard. We just wish the organizers would let the super-serious runners know that ahead of time.
This isn’t the first time Winter discovered a measurement error at a marathon. Back in 2018, while watching the inaugural Abu Dhabi Marathon, I thought the course had to be short as the closing splits seemed too good to be true. Winter agreed with me and then two months later he went to Abu Dhabi and remeasured the course and showed it was indeed short.
Talk about Yehualaw‘s 24th mile on our messageboard: MB: Y2 is a marathon superstar!!! Yalemzerf Yehualaw throws down 4:43 23rd mile to win 2022 London.