Eliud Kipchoge came within eight seconds of a new World Record today, at the 2016 Virgin London Marathon. His 2:03:05 came from a hard fought race, with his 25th mile run in 4:35!
“It was a good course. The support was perfect-the crowd was fantastic and it was good to get a PB!” noted the victor himself, Eliud Kipchoge.
Look at this photo, no really close. You are seeing history here. Eliud Kipchoge may be the best marathoner in the world. The difference is this: especially for Kenyan, Eliud is exceptionally well spoken, and quite proud.
The pride is not about ego, although Eliud Kipchoge, by Kenyan standards, does speak his mind and also explains his motivation. The pride comes from the confidence that he has both in his coach and his workouts.
One thing is for certian, Eliud Kipchoge loves the sport, and loves to race marathons.
Last year, during his post race commentary at the 2015 Virgin London Marathon, Eliud Kipchoge gave a master class in how to run a marathon. Kipchoge told the assembled media then, after providing a whipping to Wilson Kipsang that had not been done before. The beauty of last year’s race was that, after 23 miles, Eliud Kipchoge just dusted Kipsang and went on to win in 2:04:42.
In the Sept of 2015, Eliud Kipchoge ran Berlin, and with his only real competition being his new insoles on his shoes, Kipchoge ran 2:04:00. When asked about those errant insoles in London, Eliud was circumspect: “The shoes must be good, as even with the insoles, I ran fast.”
It is the smile that one sees when Eliud runs a great race that affects me. In October 2014, when Eliud won Chicago, he broke the field between 32 and 40 kilometers. As he ran away from the final two challengers at 37k, Eliud had a broad grin. Afterwards, when I queried Mr. Kipchoge on his patented smile, Eliud noted, ” It was a sunny day and I was happy.”
Eliud Kipchoge is the zen master of the marathon in my mind. His whole body of running, from his gold medal in the 5,000 meters in Saint Denis in 2003, to his win today in London, it has all been about consistency, focus and confidence.
Kipchoge’s race today was in cool, but windy conditions. The pace, however, was insane, and I tweeted out, “insane pace”.
The mile was run in 4:30, with 9:17 for two miles and 14:16 for the 5k. Eliud Kipchoge, Wilson Kipsang, Stanley Biwott, Dennis Kimetto were all there, along with Kenenisa Bekele at “90 percent”. The pace was relentless, as the 10k was hit in 28:37! Yep, 28 minutes, and 37 seconds, a two hour, one minute marathon pace. The 15k went by at 43:17, and the ten miles hit at 46:32.
When asked about the early pace after the race, Eliud KIpchoge noted that one must run fast to compete. As a song writer, Steve Forbert, wrote three decades ago, “you can not win if you do not play.”
Eliud Kipchoge was resplendent in hat and gloves with a bright stripe on each, as were other runners. Kipchoge allowed one of the pacemakers to move closer to him early on. He was in his zone.
From our writer, Justin Lagat of Kenyanathlete.com, we know that Eliud’s training had been going well. A session of four times the 2000 meters, followed by 1000 meters, with very short recovery, was one of his last workouts before leaving Eldoret.
The half marathon was hit in 61:24, and the race was on!
Kimetto was the first to go. There was an incident, early in the race, where Wilson Kipsang, who looked quite good, dusted himself off and was back in the fast fight.
The pace was relentless, and they were under the World Record pace! Can they keep it up?
For Eliud Kipchoge, it was not only about defending his London title, it was about running his PB. David Bedford, who is to developing racing fields what Monet is to Impressionistic painting, suggested that a World Record was possible.
Wilson Kipsang, two time London champion, and former WR, did not believe that a world record was really possible, with tough athletes beating each other up!
But, the pace persisted, with 15 miles hit in 1:10:12, and 30k hit in 1:27:14, a WR time except for the fact that all requirements for a WR were not in place, Kipchoge, Biwott, and surprise of surprises, Kenenisa Bekele.
Dennis Kimetto continues to show less than top marathon shape, falling back enough to finish in 2:11:44 in ninth. The pace around 1:20 into the race put him out of the picture. Wilson Kipsang was off the back around 16 miles, and would finish fifth in 2:07:52, his best in one year, but not what Mr. Kipsang desired.
But as Stanley Biwott and Eliud Kipchoge ran next to each other, Kenenisa Bekele was having his best race since 2014, as he has battled achilles and overuse injuries (more from overcompensation for his injuries, per Manager Jos Hermans).
Kenenisa was in no wheres last from 30k to the finish, but his third in 2:06:36 shows a return to fitness that should impress the Ethiopian selectors.
Now, as the real racing began, Eliud Kipchoge had a worthy competitor in Stanley Biwott, who won the 2015 NYC Marathon. Kipchoge and Biwott ran next to each other, as they develoepd 12 seconds on Kenenisa between 17 and 18.6 miles (30k). This close running went on for 10 kilometers, per Eliud Kipchoge.
Twenty miles was passed in 1:33:40, 21 was passed in 1:38:31, and 22 in 1:43:18. Still, Biwott persisted and Eliud ran with confidence and focus.
Could this be Stanley Biwott’s day? Bekele would tell the story afterwards that he missed five of his six drink bottles as Mr. Biwott had taken some of them. Kenenisa Bekele had that long burn thing going on in his eyes, so you know the Ethiopian WR holder was, well, how do you say Verklemped in Amharic?
The dynamic duo of Biwott and Kipchoge hit 23 miles in 1:48:08 and 23 miles in 1:52:41, a 4:43 mile.
At 24 miles, Eliud Kipchoge began to increase his turn over once again, from 4:43 to a bit faster.
The mile from 24 to 25 was run in 4:35, and at 40 kilometers, Eliud Kipchoge had nine seconds on Mr. Biwott.
It was not that Stanley Biwott gave up, it is that a 4:35 mile at the end of a marathon is a rarified skill set, and Stanley had to let go, for he is, after all, human.
With a 6:16 last 2kilometers, Eliud Kipchoge showed his confidence in his coach, his training and his training group. For Mr. Kipchoge, this is the, to take a reference from catholic theology, “the trinity”.
Eliud Kipchoge does not so much as run away from his competition, but go into another time and space continium.
Eliud Kipchoge missed the World Record by eight seconds. It was not that the record was not imporant, it was that his goals of a win and a personal best had been met, and Mr. Kipchoge was soaring. Eight seconds do not mean much to Mr. Kipchoge today. Perhaps another day, another time.
When asked by another member of the media on the financial aspects of the sport and marathoning, Kipchoge was quick to respond that his running is not about financial benefit, but a true love of the sport. For others, one might provide a cynical response, but not for Eliud Kipchoge. Eliud Kipchoge can not help but speak from his heart. It is one of his strengths.
Watching Eliud Kipchoge, at the top of his form, one feels bad for his competition. This is a man classicly trained in distance running. Starting in cross country, building into a decade or world class track and field, Eliud, like most great runners, took some time to change to long distance running. Now, his favorite session, thirteen times 3 minutes, with a one minute break, has made him strong.
But, dear readers, Eliud Kipchoge shows us that nothing comes easy in our sport. Two a day workouts six days a week, with a 40 kilometer Sunday run is de rigeur for runners who respect the distance. Eliud Kipchoge respects the distance. There has been fifteen or sixteen years of fine running to make Eliud Kipchoge, this type of talent does not come overnight.
When I queried Mr. Kipchoge about his coach, his training, his training group, and his success today, Eliud Kipchoge smiled and looked around the room.
Mr. Kipchoge reminded me of the American actor, Martin Sheen, who played an american president in West Wing in the 1990s and early 2000s. There was an episode where Sheen was announcing his second bid for the American presidency. Sheen put his hands in his pockets, gazed around the room, and owned the room, the airspace and the moment.
Eliud Kipchoge looked at his questioners, smiled his beatific smile, and with those eyes that tell so much, and so little, owned the room in the Marlborough House Gardens, in the tent that was the Media Center. Kipchoge looked at us and said, that his success today was not about money, but all about the confidence in his training.
“I do not run for money, I run for my love of the sport.”
My questions were done.
We may be witnessing the greatest marathon racer of the modern era in Eliud Kipchoge.