Last weekend in Berlin Kenya's Wilson Kipsang set a new world record for the marathon, clocking in at 2:03:23. That's 123 minutes and change (the wind was sometimes against him, he said). 80% of the Best Picture Oscar winners since 1960, according to Brendan Bettinger at Collider.com, ran for longer than Kipsang did. Sitting through Shakespeare in Love is one thing--imagine having to run the whole time? It's estimated that about 3% of Americans could, without anyone chasing them, get out of their seats right now and run a sub 5-minute mile. Kipsang ran 26 of them--indeed, he ran 26.2 miles at an average of 4 minutes and 42 seconds. There are lots of Internet sites that list things you can do in just five minutes. This one supplies 55 options. None of them is "run a mile."
Not long ago, researcher Glenn Fleisig told the New York Times that humans have reached (or very nearly reached) the limits of how fast they can throw a baseball. The 110 mile fastball, he assures us, is not the next chapter in hurling. If Fleisig is right, insurmountable physical limitations mean improvement in the pitching realm will crawl along in infinitesimal increments like Zeno's tortoise. But what about running? Has it also reached its limits? Kipsang said after the race: "I still think I have the potential to run faster." Who could doubt him? The 4-minute mile, a barrier Roger Bannister finally shattered in 1954, seems quaint now. The current world record in the mile is 3:
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