When Patrick Makau set his 2:03:38 world record in Berlin in 2012, he made a surge between 25 and 30K while zigzagging across the road to shake Ethiopia’s Haile Gebrselassie from his tail. Then, after passing through the Brandenburg Gate on his way to victory, he had to hop over a roadside barrier to get on the correct side of the road for the men’s finish line tape break.
Because of those two elements, a tactical surge in the middle of the race, and a little hop over a road sign at the end of the race, you knew there was another 30 seconds or so left in the world record after he crossed in 2:03:38. (And Godspeed to Mr Makau who announced his retirement this past week).
But there is always a question after a world record marathon, what was left that didn’t go exactly right that might mean the world record has more time left in it?
Today, the great Eliud Kipchoge broke Dennis Kimetto ‘s 2014 Berlin course and world record by 1:18 with a 2:01:39 finish time. Yowza, yowza, yowza! But what didn’t go right? How much more can be squeezed out of that course?
Plenty, as it turns out.
First of all, it was not an ideal day, far from it. When Kimetto ran his record 2:02:57, the start temperature was 46F with an overcast sky. Today’s start temperature was 58°F with a sunny sky. Second and third place finishers Amos Kipruto (2:06:23) and Wilson Kipsang (2:06:48) were more than a mile behind. Fourth placer Shugo Nakamura of Japan ran a two-minute PB, but still took a full 2:08:16 to complete the distance. Those weather-appropriate performances only underlined how special a 2:01 was on this day.
Secondly, while Kipchoge had three pacers to assist in his record attempt, his “special” pacer, Sammy Kitwara, only lasted til 14k before pulling out. Young Josephat Boit held till 25.67k, but special pacers are supposed to last till 32k. Which means Eliud had go run the final 17k all alone on a warming September morn in the German capital.
As it turns out, none of that mattered, as Kipchoge had plenty of running left in those wondrous legs, hugging friends and high-fiving fans up and down the finish stretch after he crossed the line.
Three-time Berlin Women’s champion Gladys Cherono had the more traditional finish line approach, barely having the momentum left to actually break the tape before coming to a dead stop.
2:01:39 is historic, bold, blistering, no doubt. But if we can ever find a talent on par with Eliud Kipchoge, or if he can ever train himself to such a peak again, then a cooler day with a cover of clouds and pacers who went past 32k and maybe even a competition after that might get us to sub-2:01. Till then, yowza, yowza, yowza, what a run!