The praise for Eliud Kipchoge continues to pour in from every corner. His masterful performance in London last weekend cemented his place as the preeminent marathoner of this and perhaps any era in most peoples eyes. But can we slow down for just half a second?
Are we really ready to hand the title of Greatest of All Time to a man who has only run flat, paced races in near ideal weather along with one lab experiment in Monza, Italy? Certainly, Master Kipchoge’s Olympic gold medal in Rio 2016 was won without the aid of pacers on a warm muggy day. And his previous life as a track runner – especially in Paris 2003 at the IAAF World Championship 5000 – proved he can race with anyone. Nobody is suggesting otherwise.
But since he moved up to the marathon in Hamburg 2013, where is the variety? Where is the new challenge? Where is the ‘throw anything at me, I’ll take it on’ mentality?
In his 12-marathon career, Kipchoge has run four Londons, four Berlins, and Chicago 2014. Rotterdam 2014 was his other non-major. Yet we just read today that Mr. Kipchoge said, “I trust that before I see the sport out that I will run all six major marathons.”
While that is wonderful to hear, there’s a difference between running all six and racing all six.
Recall when Emmanuel Mutai came to the Boston Marathon in 2017. That was his sixth of six Abbott World Marathon Majors. But by that time, E.M. was no longer the twice 2:03 man from four years earlier. By Boston 2017, he was a 2:18 guy. So yes, he ran it. But he wasn’t a contender in it.
And remember when Haile Gebrselassie came to New York City as the world record holder in 2010? Then, after all the pomp and expectation, he shockingly pulled out of the race at the end of the Queensborough Bridge before 17 miles and promptly announced his retirement? So again, there’s running all six and then there’s racing all six.
What the history books are awaiting are for Kipchoge to make full-on attempts in New York and Boston, the two majors that don’t use pacers and have hills. Tokyo, the other AWMM Eliud has yet to contest, would be just another flat, paced race.
Before we anoint the eminently likable and fantastically adept EK as G.O.A.T., don’t you want to see true, focused performances on the two old-fashioned race courses in the Abbott six? After all, aren’t goats supposed to be pretty good climbers?