Updated September 27, 2022.
This is our eleventh COROS Athletes Watch, focusing on Eliud Kipchoge. Deji Ogeyingbo, who has written ten of the 11 COROS Athlete Watch features, wrote this wonderful piece on the world record holder in the marathon, Eliud KIpchoge, a man who has shown, by example, how to focus on a goal.
Eliud Kipchoge, with his 2022 Berlin victory, has now won 15 of his 17 marathons and taken wins in 10 World Marathon Majors, two Olympic marathons, plus Hamburg, Rotterdam, and the NN Mission marathon. Deji Ogeyingbo helps us appreciate how Eliud KIpchoge moved to the marathon and how he moved from cross country to track and field and then to road racing.
Eliud Kipchoge is sponsored by Nike, NN Running, and COROS. COROS provides Eliud Kipchoge with information on improving his training and racing.
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Eliud Kipchoge’s record-breaking feat in Berlin proves his sporting greatness is more about winning.
When Eliud Kipchoge was about to cross the Brandenburg Gate close to the finish line, the cameras panned on him as they did for the most part of the 2022 Berlin Marathon. The reveal caught more time as the Kenyan great trotted towards history. “Impossible is nothing” was written on his bib. Among other apparel he wore, the INEOS, NN Running logo, and the COROS wristwatch stood out. He carried the weight of these brands, which have all aligned with the mantra.
At that point, the warble felt different to many onlookers. It rightly fitted into what he was about to achieve. A point that no human has reached before. Sporting immortality beckoned. With a smile and fist bump to his chest, Kipchoge cut the tape at the finish line with his chest. He had just lowered his own marathon record by 30s as he stopped the time at 2:01:09.
The aim for Kipchoge was to run a marathon legally. Unofficially, he already has already reached that realm. At that time of 1:59.40,
which he ran in Vienna in 2019, did not count as an official record as he was helped by different pacers who subbed in and out and other modifications not allowed under World Athletics rules.
He was winning within the confines of Berlin’s rules and his right to attempt the impossible. Only Kipchoge could fully grasp the magnitude of such craziness. Until 2019, nobody thought it was within the human capacity to run below two hours over 26.2 miles. Having erased such imagination, the course in the German City offered him the chance to take on such a challenge.
And as expected, he did. After all, he had won in Berlin three times, having set the previous record in 2017 when he took down compatriot Dennis Kimetto’s record. Kipchoge had transcended what running should look like in the marathon, claiming two Olympic marathon Gold and winning 15 of the 17 official marathons he has run.
But in his quest to rewrite history, Kipchoge threaded a thin line between brashness and ingenuity. Kipchoge went through the first 10km of the race in just 28min 23sec before powering through halfway in 59.51. That was the fastest any human had gone through the halfway stage of a marathon. There was a bit of trepidation about whether he could maintain such a pace heading into the race’s second half. Regardless, it was only in the race’s latter stages that the searing early pace told.
These aren’t the kind of races you win by stealth or in a talent lull. The marathon remains the extreme razor edge of all athletic competition, a strange, intoxicating quest for endurance, relentlessly showing how far and fast the human material can reach. Before Kipchoge, no runner seemed to have cracked the marathon and dominated it the way he has. Usain Bolt did for the sprints. This was a different ball game, and the Kenyan took it by the scruff of its neck and ended that myth.
Kipchoge’s style of running is uniquely pleasing to the eye. He has taken athletics to a new aesthetic height with his runs’ grace, fluidity, and smooth, explosive athleticism. He showed that efficiency need not come at the cost of beauty, which is rarely seen with distance runners. His style eliminated the distinction between ordinary and extraordinary. The Kenyan revealed new aesthetic possibilities in running while never compromising on pursuing excellence. Belin was just another chapter.
His grand running style will also be a case of reference to the upcoming generation. At times there is almost something of the old amateur way about all this, the illusion of effortless superiority, in itself a form of intimidation. It was the equivalent of Michael Jordan golfing in the middle of a championship series and still winning the Most Valuable Player award.
It makes sense in most sports to reject the title “greatest of all time.” Time has not yet run out. The boundaries are always being pushed back; new peaks crested. With Kipchoge, the notion of full-blown GOAT-ism seems less of a stretch. Kenenisa Beleke is the only other runner to have run sub 2:02 in a marathon. Even the Ethiopian great did it once. For Kipchoge to win the Berlin Marathon four out of the five times he has competed, to do so while smiling and clowning, is something beyond barely species parity.
Kipchoge’s greatness as a competitor will be measured beyond medals and times. His influence is just as profound beyond the race course. After his win in Berlin, the 37-year-Old said “No limitations; after 38k, I knew I would be capable of breaking the world record. Circumstances were great, and so was the organization of the event.”
The big breakthrough for Kipchoge was the 2003 World championships in Paris. At 18, then teenager took on the might of Bekele and Hicham El Guerrouj over the 5000m. In what was a sprint finish, he beat both established stars to set a championship record of 12:52.79. The tough years followed in which he struggled to match Bekele at major championships. He hit an all-time low when he failed to qualify for the London Olympics. Then the switch to the marathon, and everything changed for good.
Then came the Hamburg marathon in 2013. It was Kipchoge’s debut, and it was an outright ignition. He won in 2:05:30 before finishing second on his Berlin Marathon debut in a time of 2:04:05. What followed next was a period of sheer dominance.
The human brain always struggles to process such incredible brilliance. How, the skeptics ask, can it be possible to run faster than athletes running faster than nature allows, and not just by a head but by an exhilarating margin? In Berlin here, Kipchoge beat the second-placed Mark Korir by nearly five minutes.
The Olympics in Paris are two years away, and Kipchoge, we hope, will be looking to make his mark in Paris. Maybe one last hurrah to make it three Olympic Gold. That would be unprecedented. But if anyone can take in the challenge, it’s Kipchoge.
Kipchoge is that rare athlete: not just the best runner in the world but also the most beautiful, the most pleasing to watch, the grace note, and the triumphant ending. This was not just a function of that strangely sensual presence; the way just walking out on to run could draw a kind of hormonal groan, a Kipchoge rush, a man who seemed to move more easily through the air when he runs.
Kipchoge’s greatness also lies partly in his ethics. His integrity as an athlete was most clearly evident in how he conducted himself before and during a race, how he managed his rivalries, and, perhaps most memorably, how he competed against his greatest rival, Bekele. At each stage of his career, he cultivated reciprocal respect and appreciation relations with his main rivals.
Where Kipchoge stands in the pantheon of running greats is less important than how he broadened our understanding of sporting greatness itself. If at all, he passes both tests of greatness. Success is part of it, but only part – excellence, aesthetics, and integrity also define greatness in the sport.
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Eliud Kipchoge is sponsored by Nike, NN Running, and COROS. If you would like to learn more about COROS, please click here.