Some two hours, three minutes and one second after he began his journey in the suburban town of Hopkinton, Kenya's Geoffrey Mutai found himself in the thick of things in downtown Boston.
Despite being surrounded by a raucous crowd, Mr. Mutai was alone in his accomplishment: he had run the fastest marathon ever.
Yet, despite the historic effort that bested the previous world record by 57 seconds, an average of 4:41 per mile over the 26.2-mile course, the man from East Africa will not be able to technically call the record his own.
According to the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF), official records are only eligible to be set on courses that are a "loop," meaning that their start and finish lines are within close proximity to each other. "Boston," as the marathon is known within the running community, on the other hand, starts in Hopkinton, a municipality well outside the city limits of Boston. This means that the course is considered "point-to-point," which the IAAF claims can give competitors a significant advantage due to possible downhill terrain and tailwinds, nullifying the potential for all times run on said courses to be eligible for world records.
However, these parameters are somewhat controversial. After all, Ethiopian Haile Gebrselassie, the current holder of the marathon record, ran his best time of 2:03:59 at the 2009 Berlin Marathon, a course that doesn't feature challenging hallmarks like "Heartbreak Hill" or the Washington Street climb. It seems almost paradoxical that an easier course is fit for such records to be set, while a more undulating route is ineligible.
In practicality, however, many casual observers of the sport will still consider this particular performance as legitimate, claiming that, regardless of the course and conditions, such a performance should still be recognized for what it is: a record.
However, despite Mutai not being able to officially claim the world record for such a gutsy performance, most spectators of the 2011 edition won't care. He still won the hearts of the viewers lining the course, giving them something to remember. The books may still read Gebrselassie, but the headlines tomorrow will read Mutai.
Even if he won't go to bed with one more label to his name, the 2011 Boston Champion can sleep easy knowing one simple truth: he just ran 26.2 miles faster than anyone has before.