When the fastest marathon runner in history competes on the fastest track in the world, and the weather plays along, one can speak of the perfect conditions to push the limits of athletic performance. Before the race, people talked in awe about the one who probably comes closest to running perfection. Eliud Kipchoge won two consecutive Olympic gold medals marathonhe held the official (2:01:39 hours) and the unofficial (1:59:40 hours) world record over the 42.195 kilometers before the start.
So what would be possible on this route in Berlin? Six of the 15 fastest times ever were set here. So sometimes rumors come up that it’s because the distance is too short (we measured it again in April to be on the safe side). “Berlin is a place where a person can push their limits,” said Kipchoge, 37, who set a world record in Berlin in 2018. The Kenyan has been a global leader for almost 20 years. In 2003 he sprinted past the running greats Kenenisa Bekele and Hicham El Guerrouj at the World Championships in Paris over 5000 meters. To this day, that time remains the best ever run at a World Championship. Ten years later, Kipchoge switched to marathon distance.
Tigist Assefa becomes the third fastest woman in marathon history
Around 45,500 runners, mostly men, waited in Berlin on Sunday for the starting signal from Governing Mayor Franziska Giffey. The women’s field was particularly exciting when it came to the question of who would win. No one could predict which of them would cross the finish line first, and no one spoke of a possible world record – wrongly so. Tigist Assefa crossed the finish line a full five minutes earlier than she was given credit for before the start. In an absurdly fast race, the Ethiopian needed 2:15:37 hours, which makes her the third fastest marathon runner of all; She was just over a minute and a half short of the record set by Kenyan Brigid Kosgei in 2019 (2:14:04). A German didn’t play a role in the front, but Haftom Welday improved his best time in the men’s race by four minutes to 2:09:06, which was enough for twelfth place. Born in Ethiopia, he has been an official German citizen for a week.
Eliud Kipchoge didn’t want to hear about a record either before the race. When the inevitable question of a new personal best came up, he always said, “Let’s call it a good race”. But what a “good race” is for someone who has already managed to run the marathon in under two hours is anyone’s guess.
Kipchoge says he runs to make history
However, the fabulous time did not count as a world record. The venture in Vienna, whose only aim was to break the sound barrier of two hours, is considered an experiment under laboratory conditions. On a circuit, the finest pacemakers in the world were hired for Kipchoge and regularly exchanged. This is not allowed in a regular marathon.
In his native Kenya, Kipchoge trains at 2,500 meters above sea level. In a simple camp, everything is focused on training. The folk hero is a millionaire, but he doesn’t lead a luxurious life there. “I run to make history,” he says, “what drives me is to inspire people.” Kipchoge listens carefully when asked a question. He is professional and approachable. No wonder: “Only those who are disciplined are really free,” he preaches. The best tactic is training, and those who have trained well should have confidence in themselves.
It is not least this mental strength that has made Eliud Kipchoge the best marathon runner. He doesn’t find his role models in running. He admires Lewis Hamilton’s concentration in a Formula 1 race and Lionel Messi’s long career. He learned from Roger Federer how to be the best with class.
When Kipchoge runs, it looks unreal casual. Completed relaxed he covered the first five kilometers in 14:14 minutes. For comparison: That is more than ten seconds faster than the German record over this distance by Konstanze Klosterhalfen. When the clock ticked the half-marathon time, Kipchoge’s trainer Patrick Sang nervously tugged at his jacket. 59:51 minutes was written on the board, was that planned so quickly? For his old world record from 2018, Kipchoge needed 1:01:06 hours for the first 21.0975 kilometers.
For a runner like Kipchoge, the transit time is a reliable indicator of the final result. At that moment, the attentive viewer added up 59:51 and 59:51 minutes and came to the conclusion that the total should probably be less than two hours. But now, after 25 kilometers, Kipchoge was on his own. The last helper got out there. That was planned from the start, but having support up to 35 kilometers is considered ideal.
After 42.195 kilometers, Eliud Kipchoge’s new world record time was set: 2:01:09 hours. A good race. And so typical of him, he first thanked his team – with a smile on his face and hardly any sign of exhaustion.