Indoor/outdoor Records Compared


World indoor track records: how good are they?
Monday 20 December 2004
Another season of indoor athletics is nearly upon us and one runner in the spotlight will surely be Kenenisa Bekele, the only male to improve on a World indoor record last season.

Bekele will make his competitive debut on American soil at the Reebok Boston Indoor Games on 25 January. It’s anticipated he will run the 3000m, a distance at which his Ethiopian countryman Haile Gebrselassie set a USA all-comer’s record of 7:35.24 in 2004.

Off his form in 2004, Bekele looks to be a good bet to improve that mark. But can he also challenge the formidable World Indoor record of 7:24.90 by Daniel Komen back in 1998?

By one measure, the men’s 3000m World record is the most impressive of all indoor track marks. It currently stands as the third fastest time in history for any condition, behind two outdoor runs on larger circumference tracks. In no other track event are there such few outdoor times superior to the indoor best.

Moreover, the percent difference between the indoor record and outdoor one of 7:20.67, also by Komen, stands at just 1.0 percent, the smallest for any running event. In fact the next two smallest percent differences among the men’s track events of 1.5 and 1.6 are in the 800 and 5000, are also events in which the outdoor and indoor World records belong to the same man, Wilson Kipketer and Bekele, respectively.

While the 3000m accounts for the smallest percent differential for men, it has the biggest percent differential for women. Wang Junxia’s 8:06.11 outdoor mark is a massive 4.7 percent faster than the indoor best of 8:29.15 by Berhane Adere.

The women’s outdoor 400 mark of 47.60 by Marita Koch is 4.2 percent faster than Jarmila Kratochvilova’s undercover standard of 49.59.

Two ways to look at the situation where the difference is small is that either the indoor record is a superior accomplishment or that the outdoor record is at a point in time where it should undergo improvement. Conversely big differences could imply extraordinary outdoor marks and/or relatively week indoor benchmarks.

In the latter case consider this footnote regarding a non-record event virtually never run indoors: the men’s 10,000m. Three years ago Mark Bett ran an indoor world best in 27:50.29. But put up a lucrative bonus, some able pacemakers, a fast track, and the ability to produce the same differential for 10,000 as he has done for 5000, and Bekele could circle a 200m track 50 times in a mind-boggling 26:45.86.

Marty Post for the IAAF

Event - Out - In - % slower
200 19.32 19.92 - 3.1%
400 43.18 44.63 - 3.4%
800 1:41.11 1:42.67 - 1.5%
1000 2:11.96 2:14.96 - 2.3%
1500 3:26.00 3:31.18 - 2.5%
Mile 3:43.13 3:48.45 - 2.4%
3000 7:20.67 7:24.90 - 1.0%
5000 12:37.35 12:49.60 - 1.6%

Event - Out - In - % slower
200 21.34 21.87 - 2.5%
400 47.60 49.59 - 4.2%
800 1:53.28 1:55.82 - 2.2%
1000 2:28.98 2:30.94 - 1.3%
1500 3:50.46 3:59.98 - 4.1%
Mile 4:12.56 4:17.14 - 1.8%
3000 8:06.11 8:29.15 - 4.7%
5000 14:24.68 14:39.29 - 1.7%

NB. A jumps and Shot Put analysis will follow at a later date.