Eliud Kipchoge perseveres, and wins Berlin! by Cathal Dennehy

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Kipchoge_EluidFH1-Berlin15.JPGEliud Kipchoge is victorious, photo by PhotoRun.net

Eliud Kipchoge ran a brilliant race, taking off at 30k and running 14:23 for the 30-35k section of the race. He had a few issues to deal with, and still did it!

Here is Cathal Dennehy's story on Eliud's win!

Now, for Eliud, there is one focus: RIO.

In the end, two of the fastest men in history couldn't stop him, nor could the blisters and cuts he endured on his feet after an early-race shoe malfunction.

At the Berlin Marathon on Sunday, just about nothing could stop Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge, who destroyed the field to win in a personal best of 2:04:00, coming home a whopping 81 seconds clear of runner-up Eliud Kiptanui.

His supremacy was astonishing, his focus and resilience in the face of adversity - which came in the form of an insole problem more than his rivals - simply incredible.

Witnessing what we witnessed on Sunday, there can be little debate about it anymore: Eliud Kipchoge is currently the world's greatest marathoner.

It's almost hard to imagine that here is an athlete who has spanned two distant eras in the sport, and somehow remained at the very top during both of them.

Twelve years ago, he was outkicking Hicham El Guerrouj and Kenenisa Bekele to win the 5000m at the IAAF World Championships in Paris. Back then, we really should have recognised his greatness - an 18-year-old defeating two all-time greats at the peak of their powers - but the years that followed often saw him play second fiddle on the track, picking up many silver and bronze medals over 5000m and 10,000m.

It was only when he decided in 2013 that it was time for him to move up in distance that we remembered just how outrageously talented Kipchoge was.

On Sunday, it was precisely with 10K to run that the former track man made his decisive move. As his insoles flapped around, half-in, half-out of his shoes - something which will no doubt lead to the sacking or severe roasting of a manufacturer at Nike - Kipchoge surged to the lead and in an instant, his superiority was clear.

The 30-year-old eased ahead of Emmanuel Mutai and Feyisa Lilesa and built his lead all the way to the finish, which he reached in 2:04:00 - a personal best by five seconds which was the 11th fastest run of all time.

When Kipchoge removed his unfortunate shoes at the finish, the world got to see just how difficult his performance had been beneath the calm, cool exterior he had displayed throughout the race.

"There are blisters on the left foot and my big toe is cut, with lots of blood," said Kipchoge. "It was there the whole race but what can I do? I had to finish. In the first 800m, the left [insole] came out, and by 10km the right sole was also out.

"I had a problem running [correctly], because the left one was really flopping and moving smoothly was a problem. The sole impacted with the tarmac and I got some blisters. I got to 31K and tried to really adjust, but the last 7K my foot was a little bit painful. I had to try my best to maintain the pace and forget the foot, but both of them were painful."

Given the apparent ease with which he won, the question everyone kept asking Kipchoge post-race concerned how fast he could have gone without the shoe malfunction, but the Kenyan didn't want to get specific.

"I think I would have run faster than that but I don't know the time," he said. "It was a personal best and the outcome was the most important thing."

Kipchoge revealed he had tested the shoe in training without fault and he wasn't keen to lay the blame at anyone's door afterwards. "The glue on the insole did not stick," he explained. "It is a good shoe, the best in the world, but that is sport. I have to accept it."

With his win in Berlin, Kipchoge is now unbeaten in the marathon since the same race in 2013, where he finished second in 2:04:05.

So far, a super-fast time at the distance has eluded him, but his form today was indicative of an athlete who, with the right conditions - and shoes - can threaten the world record.

Kipchoge, though, is more focused on titles than times. Next year, when he runs for Kenya at the Olympic Games - as he surely will - it will have been 13 years since he ascended to the top of the world in Paris.

If he can strike gold again, then there will be no doubting that he is an all-time great of the sport. On Sunday, Kipchoge took one giant leap towards that status and as he explained afterwards, there's only one thing in his thoughts from here on out.

"My mind," he said, "is in Rio."

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