Kipchoge x Berlin: Anything Could Happen
We’ve been here before.
Eliud Kipchoge has lost three marathons out of the 20 he’s lined up for throughout his career. His first loss came on the streets of Berlin in 2013, where he finished second to a world record of 2:03:23 set by Wilson Kipsang. But this was before Kipchoge was KIPCHOGE. It was his second career marathon, his first major, and Wilson Kipsang was the guy at the time. (This used to be my favorite race highlight ever: Kipsang giving Desisa the side-eye and then blowing him out of the water – wild.)
Then seven years of dominance from Kipchoge before his second career loss: London 2020, eighth place, 2:06:49, a blocked ear (?!?!). Time catches up to everyone, and this felt like it could’ve been the end. Kipchoge had been dominating on the world stage for years, decades even. He’d made the marathon predictable, reshaped what we thought was possible, and finally his time at the top of the sport was done.
“They wrote me off, but I ain’t write back though.” Not something Kipchoge said, but something he should’ve said.
"Talk of Kipchoge’s demise is massively premature. He could float into the distance; instead, he’s headed back to Berlin."
The NN Mission Marathon (2021): first place, 2:04:30. A win, but a result that did little to shift the narrative.
The Tokyo Olympics (2021): first place, 2:08:38, the third man ever to successfully defend an Olympic gold in the marathon and the first since the 1970s. The haters pointed to the time; the fans pointed to the biggest margin of victory in 49 years.
The Tokyo Marathon (2022): first place, 2:02:40, a course record.
At this point, Kipchoge was BACK. Tokyo shut down the detractors and London started to feel more like a fluke than an indication of anything else. Then came Berlin 2022.
2:01:09 (with a half-way split of 59:51), taking 30 seconds off the WR. The greatest of all time was better than ever.
Which brings us up to today. Kipchoge’s most recent marathon was a failure by his impossible standards. Sixth in Boston in 2:09:23 was a shock to the running world, and whispers of Kipchoge’s demise started up again.
They feel a bit different this time, though. The legend is 38 years old; he’s been at the top of the sport for 20 years; the world is getting faster. Kipchoge must fade eventually; he is only human. Isn’t he?
Besides, what is there left to prove? Kipchoge is the greatest of all time – he’s taken the sport to another stratosphere and has inspired millions globally. He could fade easily into the sunset.
And honestly, that’s why I think talk of Kipchoge’s demise is massively premature. He could float into the distance; instead, he’s headed back to Berlin.
On one hand, he’s controlling what he can control. He knows Berlin; he’s won there before, set records there before. It’s definitely comfortable for him.
And yet, he also knows the expectations that Berlin brings. He set the world record there a year ago! Does that mean I expect a world record? Not necessarily, but I do expect this race to be fast.
He got knocked down in Boston, but he’s risen before. He’s rebuilding by attacking again.
There will inevitably come a day when Kipchoge is no longer the king of the marathon, but that day is not today.