Some say no human will ever run a sub-two-hour marathon, but in a sense, they’re wrong. Kids can do it. All it takes is a little help from your friends.
Between October 16 and 23, 50,000 young people from 60 countries around the world took part in the Save the Children World Marathon Challenge, a charity relay event based around an intriguing question: By working together and dividing a marathon’s 26.2 miles into 200-meter bits, can speedy school kids beat Wilson Kipsang’s world record of 2:03:23?
The answer: “Yes,” or “Sí,” or “Oui”—“Ja,” as they say in Iceland. Seventeen teams comprised of runners 13 years old and younger posted combined times faster than Kipsang’s. Nine broke the two-hour mark, proving that when youngsters come together and work toward a common goal, they can achieve things no that single human—not even the amazing Kipsang—can accomplish.
The winning squad, from the Thomas Tallis School in London, posted a time of 1:51:39. Each participating team was allowed 26 to 36 runners, each of whom was allowed up to nine 200-meter segments. Three of the top four teams are from the United Kingdom; third place in the 13-and-under division went to the Tigers of Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, who finished in 1:55:03. The pack of corredores rapidos from the Virgen de Europa team in Madrid took fifth with a time of 1:56:00.
In the open division, the results were even faster. The Cannock & Stafford Athletic Club, based in Stafford, England, clocked in at 1:42:22, beating Estonia’s Tartu Kalev squad by three seconds.
In addition to reaffirming the power of teamwork, Save the Children’s goal in launching the event was to “stop children dying in the world’s poorest countries.” According to the agency, nearly 7 million children succumb each year to preventable diseases, and the £70,000 that organizers hope to raise with the World Marathon Challenge will go toward providing vaccinations, high-nutrient milk, mosquito nets, and other essentials to folks around the globe.
“What an incredible achievement,” said world champion Paralympian Hannah Cockroft, according to Athletics Weekly.
As she helped to hand out medals in Birmingham, England, Cockroft paused to look at the big picture.
“Here in Birmingham, we’ve been doing our relay in a professional stadium,” she added, “but elsewhere in countries like Kenya, Iraq’ and India, children are running on dirt tracks and some are running barefoot. Yet, we all share a common goal to help end deaths of under-five-year-olds from preventable causes.”
“Our races are to our sport what Wimbledon and the Australian, U.S., and French Opens are to tennis, and what the Masters, U.S., and British Opens and PGA Championship are to golf. Each race has the history, the tradition, the honor roll of legendary champions, and a special place in the eyes of all to make them stand apart from the other events.” Mary Wittenberg