Eliud Kipchoge is a champion, he proved it on the track and he’s proved it on the road. Just two years on from making his marathon debut, the former world champion showed his steel to outlast the masters of the distance and take victory in the 35th London Marathon. A win, so impressive that he surely stands as the world number one right now and is line to be the star of 2015.
What is more, the 30 year-old seems in a perfect position to add world and potentially Olympic gold over his new distance to the world 5000m title he took back in 2003, when he out-sprinted Hicham El Guerrouj and Kenenisa Bekele at the age of 19.
As the field went off at an electric pace in the English capital you wondered just how many of the top-class athletes could hold on and stick with the pack as they went through 5k in 14.31 following an sharp 4:24 third mile.
But not Kipchoge, who seemed unfazed, his face emotionless, his eyes set on the goal ahead.
Even as they reached the half-way point in 1:02.20 and the group remained filled with talent and the end result impossible to predict, it seemed likely that he at least would be in the mix in the final miles.
With the race unfolding in a tactical battle, built around a continuos fluctuation in pace, things began to play into his hands ever further. With no-one willing to make a decisive move, it seemed to be heading for a final push over the final 5k that surely could not have suited anything more than Kipchoge.
Then at 23 miles, a quick burst split the group in half and then again not long after, leaving two great Kenyans, Kipsang and Kipchoge to contest the final stretch along the embankment and towards Buckingham Palace. World record holder Dennis Kimetto was left well behind.
An epic battle between the best of the best was set to go right to wire with both capable of producing the top-end finishing speed that would give them the vital victory to prove that they were the world’s best over the distance, after two brilliant wins apiece in 2014.
Even then, though it seemed unwise to doubt the two-time champion, Kipchoge’s form gave the impression of a man who was ready to beat his opponent for the very first time, and so as he stretched away from his opponent with 1k to go he was not going to be defeated.
Crossing the line in 2:04:42, he was the champion.
Victory on a cold and windy day in London ensures that the former track star has now won four of his five races over the distance. While by defeating both Kipchoge and Kimetto, he made sure that there can be no doubt about where he stands in comparison to the two Berlin marathon champions. It also means that the only challenger left standing his way is the clock. With a world record attempt of his own surely not too far away.
However, while that is something that he admits could be on the cards, with gold in Beijing now an even more realistic possibility, it’s not his main aim. Even if selection for this summer’s competition is out of his hands: “In the front of my head the world record is there, but for me my focus is the world champs.”
“I’m in the hands of the federation if they select me I will go to the World Championships.”
As for his rival Kipsang, the former world record holder says he is confident the future remains bright: “I have the speed, it’s just the way I was feeling compared to what I saw in Eliud was different, today was his race.
“I’m still strong and I still have the potential to do well.”