Fastest African Marathoners Of The Last 25 Years

By Keren Mikva AFKI Original Published: May 27, 2014, 9:35 am

It’s common knowledge that elite athletes of African descent, particularly from East and West Africa, are among the fastest runners in the world. And when it comes to marathoners, East Africans — most notably Kenyans and Ethiopians — have dominated races across the world for decades. The following men and women represent the fastest marathoners in record-eligible courses over the last 25 years.

Keep in mind that the Boston Marathon is not a record-eligible course as recognized by the International Association of Athletics Federations, and thus Geoffrey Mutai’s 2011 Boston Marathon record time of 2:03:02 is not included in this ranking. These statistics were compiled as of September 2013.


Haile Gebrselassie, Ethiopia

Best time: 2:03:59, 2008 Berlin Marathon
Though his records have since been eclipsed, Haile Gebrselassie is no stranger to marathon wins and record setting. A four-time winner of the Berlin Marathon, his 2008 performance would set the world record time for three years. A runner from a young age, he ran 10 kilometers each morning to school and back while growing up in Asella, in the Oromia Region in Ethiopia.

Emmanuel Kipchirchir Mutai, Kenya

Best time: 2:03:52, 2013 Chicago Marathon
Mutai led his career as a half marathoner until his marathon debut in 2007. He quickly demonstrated his elite ability after winning his first race later that same year at the Amsterdam Marathon. Running ability runs in the family, as his extended branches include 2001 World Champion 5000-meter runner, Richard Limo. Mutai held the course record for the London Marathon, having run 2:04:40 in 2011, before his time was beaten by Wilson Kipsang in 2014.

Dennis Kipruto Kimetto, Kenya

Best time: 2:03:45, 2013 Chicago Marathon
A native of Eldoret, Kenya, Dennis Kimetto trained in his home country alongside fellow runner Geoffrey Mutai in his early years. Though his marathon time is not quite the top, he is in fact the world record holder for the 25-kilometer road race after his impressive performance at the 2012 BIG 25 Berlin race, with a time of 71:18.

Patrick Makau Musyoki, Kenya

Best time: 2:03:38, 2011 Berlin Marathon
Until he was beaten by Kipsang in 2013, Patrick Makau was the world record holder with his appearance in the 2011 Berlin Marathon. A runner since 2001, Makau has racked up multiple marathon and half-marathon victories, and has a reputation for extremely exciting races that often come down to the final sprint.

Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich, Kenya

Best time: 2:03:23, 2013 Berlin Marathon
Though he only placed bronze in the 2012 London Olympics, Kipsang became the current world-record holder in the marathon at the 2013 Berlin Marathon with his time of 2:03:23. Born and raised in the Keiyo District in Kenya, he has competed as a professional athlete since 2007, but only made his marathon debut at the Paris Marathon in April 2010.

Lucy Wangui Kabuu, Kenya

Best time: 2:19:34, 2012 Dubai Marathon
Lucy Kabuu earned her place on this list at the 2012 Dubai Marathon, which also happened to be her marathon debut. Having grown up in Ichamara, Kenya, she moved to Japan following primary school after being singled out for her running ability. Kabuu studied, trained, and competed in Japan until she began competing internationally at the 2004 Athens Olympics, where she finished ninth in the 10,000-meter event.

Aselefech Mergia Medessa, Ethiopia

Best time: 2:19:31, 2012 Dubai Marathon
Before she was eclipsed by Gelana’s time in 2012, Aselefech Mergia held the Ethiopian national marathon record with her time of 2:19:31. Only making her marathon debut as recently as 2009, she is already a two-time winner of the Dubai Marathon and has consistently placed at the World Championships in Athletics, as well as the London and Paris Marathons.

Erba Tiki Gelana, Ethiopia

Best time: 2:18:58, 2012 Rotterdam Marathon
Tiki Gelana maintains the Ethiopian national record for the women’s marathon with her 2012 Rotterdam Marathon time, in which her finish was nearly five minutes ahead of the second-place runner. Following this performance, she was chosen to represent her country in the 2012 London Summer Olympics, where she won the gold medal for the marathon event with a time of 2:23:07 in the midst of poor weather conditions.

Catherine Nyambura Ndereba, Kenya

Best time: 2:18:47, 2001 Chicago Marathon
Having set the women’s marathon world record with her time at the 2001 Chicago Marathon, Catherine Ndereba, also known as “Catherine the Great,” made a name for herself early on in her career. Though her record has since been eclipsed, she still went on to become a four-time Boston Marathon winner, and two-time World Championships in Athletics marathon winner.

Mary Jepkosgei Keitany, Kenya

Best time: 2:18:37, 2012 London Marathon
Moving on to the women, it’s interesting to note that the top marathoners are in fact not of African descent (the top two women are Paula Radcliffe, Great Britain, and Liliya Shobukhova, Russia). However, Mary Keitany’s 2012 time at the London Marathon still earns her the third-place spot, and the first among her African peers. A runner since her primary school days, Keitany also holds the women’s world record for the half marathon, 10-mile, 20-kilometers, and 25-kilometer.

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