Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge smashes marathon world record in Berlin
Olympic champion shaves a staggering one minute and 18 seconds off existing record
Eliud Kipchoge smashed the marathon world record in Berlin. Photograph: Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters
At his training camp in Kenya, where Eliud Kipchoge takes his turn to clean out the toilets and draw water from the nearby well, his fellow athletes call him “the boss man”. And on a pleasant autumn day in Berlin the 33-year-old lived up to that billing - and more - as he proved beyond doubt that he is the greatest long distance runner in history by obliterating the marathon world record.
Kipchoge’s time of 2 hours 01 minute and 40 seconds was staggering enough, given it took one minute and 17 seconds off the previous world record, set four years ago by Dennis Kimetto. But what more it more impressive still was the fact that Kipchoge had to run the last 17 kilometres (10.5 miles) alone after his pacemakers dropped out early.
“I lack words to describe this day,” admitted Kipchoge afterwards, briefly dumbstruck by what he had achieved. But he had done most of his talking already, on the streets of the German capital, setting off with just three pacemakers for company, and going through halfway in 61 minutes and six seconds before - incredibly - speeding up to run the second half in 60:34. Most mortals would have slumped after crossing the line. Instead the remarkable Kenyan retained just enough energy to jump into the arms of his coach and mentor, Patrick Sang.
A few minutes later Gladys Cherono won the women’s race in Berlin in a course record of 2:18:11, making her the fourth fastest woman in history behind Paula Radcliffe, Mary Keitany and Tirunesh Dibaba. Yet given Kipchoge’s achievement it went almost unnoticed.
He passed the five kilometre mark in 14:24 and 10km in 29:21. But shortly after 15 kilometres, which he reached in 43:38, two of the three pacemakers were unable to continue and withdrew from the race.
The final pacemaker, Josphat Boit, led Kipchoge through the half-way point in 1:01:06 before dropping out at 25 kilometres, which was covered in 1:12:24.
Most observers feared that had left Kipchoge’s hopes of a world record in the balance. Instead it transpired that the pacemakers were holding him back.
The Kenyan sped up to pass the 35-kilometre checkpoint just a shade outside 1:41:00, suggesting a finishing time inside 2:02 was possible. By 40 kilometres, reached in 1:55:32, a world record was a certainty. The only question was how far inside Kimetto’s record he would get.
The answer, 77 seconds, was the single largest jump on the marathon world record since Derek Clayton improved the mark by two minutes and 23 seconds in 1967.
“It was hard,” Kipchoge later admitted. “I was prepared to run my own race early so I wasn’t surprised to be alone. I have trained so well for this race and have full trust in the programs of my coach. I am just so incredibly happy to have finally run the world record as I never stopped having belief in myself.”
This was a triumph 15 years in the making. The Kenyan first advertised his talents by winning the 2003 world championships over 5,000m as an 18-year-old, and also won Olympic silver and bronze medals on the track before moving to the marathon in 2012. On the roads he has been almost unstoppable, winning 10 of 11 races over 26.2 miles, including Olympic gold in Rio de Janeiro and three London marathon titles.
Last year he also attempted an audacious yet controversial attempt to shatter the two-hour barrier for the marathon, running 2:00:25 on the Monza F1 track with the help of a phalanx of 30 elite pacers, which was against the official rules of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).
This performance had all the audacity of that run, without any of the controversy. It will go down as Kipchoge’s crowning glory, his marathon opus. His record could well stand for a generation.