The numbers bewitch: 2:01:09, 30 seconds lopped off and the man does it at 37 years of age.
Olympic champion and world marathon record holder, Eliud Kipchoge, rewrote his marathon world record at the 2022 edition of the Berlin Marathon held on September 25, 2022. The 37 year-old Kenyan great covered the 42.2 kilometres-distance in two hours, one minute and nine seconds, chopping off 30 seconds from his previous world record of 2:01:39 set in Berlin in 2018.
Kipchoge ran the first half of the race in 59 minutes and 51 seconds and the second half in 61 minutes and 18 seconds. His first half pace raised hopes of the legend doing a sub-two-hour marathon but after that pace started to drop in the second half, the possibility of a sub-two was ruled out. For the moment, it leaves the unofficial sub-two he ran in October 2019 (1:59:40.2 at the Ineos 1:59 Challenge in Austria), as an instance of human performance achieved under circumstances very different from that of a regular race.
In the women’s segment at Berlin, Ethiopia’s Tigist Assefa smashed the course record by more than two minutes with a 2:15:37 finish. In the process, she became the third fastest woman marathon runner in the world. Kenya’s Brigid Kosgei holds the women’s world record of 2:14:14 set in Chicago in 2019. Paula Radcliffe, the earlier world record holder (2:15:25) is the second fastest after Kosgei. Going into the race, Assefa was not among those fancied to win; she had run only one major marathon before – the 2022 Riyadh Marathon, where she registered a timing of 2:34:00. In Berlin on Sunday, she produced a faster pace for the second half of the race.
In the men’s race, Kenyan runner Mark Korir finished in 2:05:58, almost five minutes behind Kipchoge. In third place was Tadu Abate of Ethiopia (2:06:28). In the women’s race, Rosemary Wanjiru of Kenya finished second in 2:18 and Tigist Abayechew of Ethiopia finished third with a timing of 2:18:03.
In its report, Runner’s World pointed out that Sunday’s world record breaking performance was Kipchoge’s 17th win from 19 marathon starts. Two of the 19 starts were demo races that were ineligible for records. At the 2013 Berlin Marathon, he had finished second and in 2020, he had placed eighth in the year’s London Marathon. Kipchoge has run four of the five fastest times in the marathon so far.
The course of the Berlin Marathon is flat; it has played host to many record-breaking performances in the discipline. Besides 2022, Kipchoge won in Berlin in 2015, 2017 and 2018. In its report, NBC Sports noted, “The last eight instances the men’s marathon world record has been broken, it has come on the pancake-flat roads of Berlin. It began in 2003, when Kenyan Paul Tergat became the first man to break 2:05.’’ According to it, Kipchoge’s focus now is to be a three-time Olympic champion (he has been crowned twice – 2016 Rio and 2020 Tokyo; the next Olympic Games is in Paris in 2024) and also win the six World Marathon Majors (he is yet to run the city marathons of Boston and New York).
(The authors, Latha Venkatraman and Shyam G Menon, are independent journalists based in Mumbai.)