Eliud Kipchoge smashes his own marathon world record
By Talya Minsberg
Two questions come to mind any time Eliud Kipchoge toes the starting line of a marathon.
At what point in the race will Kipchoge, who before Sunday had won 14 of the 16 official marathons he entered, leave the rest of the field fighting for second place? And are the conditions such that he could shatter his own world record again?
On a sunny morning in Berlin, Kipchoge, a 37-year-old Kenyan, answered both questions unequivocally, winning the Berlin Marathon for the fourth time, in 2 hours, 1 minute, 9 seconds, a world record.
The world record he broke was his own — 2:01:39 — set four years ago on this course.
The field went out at a fast pace, with Kipchoge joined by five runners who hit a 10-kilometer split of 28 minutes, 22 seconds, a sub-two-hour marathon pace.
Midway through, the group had dwindled. Only Andamlak Belihu of Ethiopia was with Kipchoge as they hit the halfway point, in 59:51, an incredible half-marathon split in itself. That was the plan, Kipchoge said.
The race shifted around 25 kilometers, or about 15.5 miles, when the pacers left the course and Belihu dropped behind Kipchoge. The pace slowed, by Kipchoge’s standards, at least, but was still well within world-record range.
By the time Kipchoge ran through the finish line at the Brandenburg Gate, the result was clear: The world record would be shattered by about 30 seconds. He slapped his chest as he went across the line and almost seemed to surprise himself as he ran into the arms of his longtime coach Patrick Sang. Kipchoge looked at his wristwatch as if to confirm it all.
Second place was a few minutes behind, with Mark Korir of Kenya finishing in 2:05:58. Tadu Abate of Ethiopia came in third, in 2:06:28, and Belihu faded to fourth.
Kipchoge has no equal in the distance and now counts 15 marathon wins to his name.
In 2019, in Vienna, he became the first person to run a marathon in under two hours, though his time of 1:59:40 was not recognized as a record because he ran on a controlled course with professional pacesetters. Last year, he added an Olympic gold medal to his collection after a commanding win at the Tokyo Games, becoming only the third man to win back-to-back gold medals in the event.
He does not intend to slow down. He plans to defend his Olympic title at the 2024 Olympics in Paris.
“There’s still more in my legs,” Kipchoge said after the race.
In the women’s race Sunday, Tigist Assefa shocked the field by running away with the win in 2:15:38, shattering the course record by almost three minutes. The time makes Assefa, a 28-year-old Ethiopian, the third-fastest female marathoner ever.
Assefa, a former 800-meter runner who competed at the 2016 Olympics, has run only one other marathon. Her debut in the distance was in March at the Riyadh Marathon, in Saudi Arabia, where she ran 2:34:01 and finished in seventh place.
Rosemary Wanjiru of Kenya finished in second place Sunday with a time of 2:18:00, a remarkably quick debut marathon time. Tigist Abayechew of Ethiopia finished in third with a time of 2:18:03.
Keira D’Amato, who went into the Berlin Marathon as the No. 1 seed, having set the American women’s record, 2:19:12, at the Houston Marathon in January, finished in sixth place with a time of 2:21:48.
She came into the race as somewhat of a hero to the everyday runner and as a notable favorite in a field that rarely sees an American at the top of the seeded lists.
A 37-year-old mother of two, D’Amato left the sport in 2009 and returned in 2017 to run a marathon for fun with her husband. She has since beaten her college 5-kilometer time by a minute, set a 10-mile American record and signed a sponsorship deal with Nike.
“I’m just having fun,” she said in an interview Friday at the Brandenburg Gate. She took a photograph with Kipchoge, giving him bunny ears.
“I feel like I have nothing to lose because no matter if I win or lose, I’m going to go home, and my kids are going to ask what’s for dinner.”
Both Kipchoge, a father of three, and D’Amato will be going home to proud children.