A startling first-half tempo propelled Eliud Kipchoge to break his own world marathon record in Berlin on Sunday morning, running a full half a minute faster than on the same course four years ago.
After passing the midway point in 59:51 – the fastest official half-marathon split in race history – Kipchoge clearly had the first official sub-two hour run in mind, only he faded slightly in that second half to finish in 2:01:09.
Just shy a first sub-2:01 clocking, that improved the 2:01:39 mark he set here in 2018, which at the time took one minute and 18 seconds off the then previous record, set in 2014, when fellow Kenyan Dennis Kimetto became the first man to go under 2:03, clocking 2:02:57, also in Berlin.
Visibly thrilled with his effort nonetheless, Kipchoge passed through the Brandenburg Gate towards the finish completely solo, the race pacemakers having had enough at 25km, dropping out to leave him out on his own with another 17km to go.
The now 37-year-old Kenyan was back in Berlin for the first time since that world record run four years ago, clearly harbouring ambitions of running the first official sub two-hour marathon: three years ago in an unofficial staged event in Vienna, using looped pacemakers, he ran 1:59.41, knowing at the time that would not stand for record purposes.
So he clearly chased that official mark here, passing 15km in 42:32, which was on 1:59:38 pace, then that halfway in 59:51, after which things did started to slow down.
Kipchoge’s 38th km was run in 3:02, the first one of the race over three minutes; still heading into the last 5km he only needed to run sub-15 minutes to be assured of a new world record. It also means he’s won 15 of his last 16 marathons, since 2013, his only defeat coming in London in 2020, before he defended his Olympic marathon title last year, also winning the Tokyo Marathon in March of this year.
Making the most of the perfect running conditions, the women’s race was won in equally impressive style by Tigist Assefa, the 28-year-old Ethiopian clocking 2:15:37, the third fastest women’s time in history.
Four years ago, Kipchoge’s time was the first official sub-2:02, the biggest improvement on a men’s marathon world record in 51 years, when Derek Clayton, born in Cumbria, raised in Northern Ireland, and running for Australia, took it down by two minutes and 37 seconds in 1967 when clocking 2:09:36.
Stephen Scullion also started Berlin eyeing up a fast time, and after passing halfway in 66:40, the Irish runner dropped out just before the 25km mark.