On Sunday, Eliud Kipchoge broke the Men’s World Record at the Berlin Marathon. The Kenyan ran 26.2 miles in two hours, one minute, and thirty-nine seconds on the flat streets of the German capital.
Kipchoge now has the two fastest marathons ever. In May 2017, he ran 2:00:35 on a circuit race track for Nike’s Breaking-2 marathon attempt. That doesn’t count for the record books, but running experts largely agreed that the effort broke down much skepticism about breaking two hours on a regulation course.
2:01:39 is an average of 12.92 mph, or 4:39 per mile. The previous record, 2:02:57 by fellow Kenyan Dennis Kimmeto in 2014, comes in 12.79 mph or 4:42 per mile. That’s insane for a few different reasons. As fellow runners observed this weekend, a 78-second improvement is a huge jump. It doesn’t seem like much amortized over the full marathon course, but it’s gargantuan. Those top-10 marathon times are god-like speed compared to the average marathon finisher. Us chubby joggers finish in 4:21:49 on average. That’s 6 mph or 10:00 per mile.
To show just how fast these elite marathoners are, here are the commutes they could cover compared to you, using your preferred methods. Let’s stipulate these rabbits are going 12.7 mph and we’ll send them along routes using Google Maps in walking directions mode. You’re going to use the most popular commute methods in DC: Metrorail, Metro bus, and driving. We’ll send you along commutes between Metrorail stations during a Tuesday morning rush hour.
Commuting from Silver Spring to Metro Center
On foot, the marathon runners will cover a 6.9-mile journey in 32:36, though they’ll probably be a bit faster since the route is downhill. Using Metrorail, your commute takes 26 minutes, assuming you catch a westbound Red Line train immediately. Driving, which you absolutely should not do, can take up to 1:10:00 along a nearly identical route as the runner. The bus takes 55 minutes, almost as bad as driving.
Commuting from West Falls Church to Union Station
Our fleet-footed marathoners will cover 10.8 miles in 51:02, though I have issues with the Google Maps routing. I would probably get to the Custis and Mount Vernon Trails instead of running on Lee Highway sidewalks. But, that’s a longer route. The subway takes 38 minutes, plus probably 5-10 minutes waiting and walking. The bus takes at least 58 minutes and probably more. If you take I-66 and pay the rush-hour tolls, it can take 55 minutes. But, if you’re one of the folks who can’t stand paying tolls, you better carve out 1 hour and 20 minutes for this commute.
Commuting from Bethesda to Navy Yard
Let’s say you’re a Bethesda resident and you work at the Navy Yard. If an elite marathoner ran your commute, it would take 45:50 to cover the 9.7-mile journey. Metrorail commuting this would be 37-43 minutes plus walking/waiting. The bus for this Southward commute will be about 1 hour, 20 minutes. Driving, and contributing CO2 to the atmosphere, would take 1 hour, 5 minutes at least.
Commuting from Tysons Corner to Old Town Alexandria
I know few people live along the Silver Line, but there’s a lot of transit-oriented, mixed-use development going up there. More folks will be commuting across NoVA from the Tysons area soon. If you’re an elite marathoner, you can make this 12.3-mile commute in 58:07 plus showering and changing into work clothes. On Metrorail, you can make this commute in 45 minutes if the Blue Line was operating normally in the Arlington Cemetary-Pentagon corridor. If went Silver-to-Yellow Line, it would be about an hour. The bus would take an hour-twenty at least. Driving and paying your tolls (which you should given all the negative impacts of your driving), gives you a commute of 40 minutes. You can match that time without tolls if Southeast traffic on the Beltway is low.
Commuting from Rockville to College Park
A 15.2-mile journey for our professional marathoner will take 1:11:49. Until they finish the Purple Line, you’ll have to take Metrorail all the way into the city, then back out of the city, before transferring to the Green Line at Fort Totten. This circuitous journey will take at least 1:16:00, probably more. The bus will take 1 hour, 40 minutes or more. Do not take the bus. Driving will take 1 hour, 5 minutes or more.
How to Commute as Fast as an Elite Marathoner
It’s easy to dismiss these comparisons because elite marathoners run twice as fast as a recreational marathoner, the latter of whom is already a rarity in the general population. That’s fair. However, look again at those elite runner speeds. That’s about the same speed as your average Jane rides a bike. So, when you think about it, these comparisons show how much faster bike commuting could be than driving.
Yes, bike commuting isn’t ideal for many people. And we should add 10%-15% more for storing your bike and cleaning up for the morning staff meeting. I would end up taking detours on the Google Maps prescribed routes, adding distance but maximizing use of existing cycling infrastructure like the W&OD Trail that runs East-West in Virginia. For example, if I lived in Tysons, I’d use that to connect into the Four Mile Run Trail, then head South on the Mt. Vernon Trail.