With no TV gig to distract me this year, and thousands of miles separating me from my old haunts, I’ve been freed up this 2023 Patriot’s Day weekend to dig in to this year’s appearance in Boston by putative marathon GOAT, Eliud Kipchoge of Kaptagat, Kenya.
In this piece, the reworking of a May 1, 2019 column, I delve into the historic importance of Kipchoge’s arrival in the Hub.
The praise for Eliud Kipchoge continues to pour in from every corner. His masterful performance in London last weekend (2019) cemented his place, in the eyes of most, as the preeminent marathoner of this and perhaps any era. But can we slow down for just half a second?
Are we really ready to hang the G.O.A.T. title – Greatest of All Time – on a man who has only run flat, paced races in near ideal weather along with one lab experiment in Monza, Italy? (Now, two lab experiments that, one has to admit, went remarkably well. With the second in Vienna 2019 producing history’s first and only sub-2 hour marathon distance clocking, 1;59:41.)
Interestingly, 2013 & 2015 champion Desisa will also toe the line at the 127th Boston Marathon along with Kipchoge. But nobody’s talking about the 2019 World Champion as a potential winner anymore, though he is nearly six years younger than his Kenyan rival.
Certainly, Master Kipchoge’s Olympic gold medal run in Rio 2016 was earned without the aid of pacers on a warm, muggy day. (Then, he did it again in Sapporo 2021). And his previous life as a track runner – especially his gold medal performance in Paris 2003 at the IAAF World Championship 5000m at age 18 – proved he can race with anyone. Nobody is suggesting otherwise.
But since he moved up to the marathon in Hamburg in April 2013 (1st, 2:05:30) where is the variety? Where is the new challenge? Where is the ‘throw anything at me, I’ll take it on’ mentality?
In his marathon career, Kipchoge has raced in London six times, Berlin four times, Rotterdam & Chicago in 2014, the Rio Olympics 2016, Monaco Breaking2 in 2017, Vienna INEOS 1:59 Challenge in 2019, Enschede & the Sapporo (Olympic Marathon) 2021, and Tokyo in 2022.
Following his London 2019 triumph, 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 are sizable gulfs separating, running all six, racing all six, winning all six, and setting records in all six.
Remember when Emmanuel Mutai came to the Boston Marathon in 2017? Probably not, though it 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.
How about when Haile Gebrselassie came to New York City as the world record holder in 2010? After all the pomp and hoopla, the man many believed to be the distance GOAT shockingly pulled out of the race at the end of the Queensborough Bridge just before 17 miles and promptly announced his retirement.
But even at age 38, Kipchoge shows no signs of diminished capacity. His last race, after all, was the world record in Berlin. What the history books are waiting on is for Kipchoge to make full-on attempts in New York City and Boston, the two majors that don’t use pacers but do have hills.
Kipchoge crossed Tokyo off his AWMM wish list in March 2022 with yet another paced, course record win, 2:02:40.
Before we anoint the eminently likable and fantastically adept Mr. Kipchoge as absolute marathon GOAT, don’t you want to see true, focused performances on the two old-fashioned race courses among the Abbott six? After all, aren’t goats supposed to be excellent climbers?
If he wins this thing on Monday, however, in whatever time, there won’t be much left to wonder, anymore, will there?
5 thoughts on “FINALLY, THE GOAT IS READY TO CLIMB”
Great piece, Toni. See you at the start line for the Beach to Beacon. From a legacy runner to a legacy announcer for the 25th running of Joanie’s race. AJ Viens
Great piece, Toni. See you at the start line for the 25th Beach to Beacon.
Thanks for getting me even more fired up for this Boston! Really looking forward to a great race from both fields. But I believe we keep moving the goalposts when it comes to the moment we finally settle on Eliud as the GOAT. They claim goat meat is the most widely consumed in the world, but the only thing the world’s greatest marathoners have eaten in Kipchhoge’s races, are his dust!
I can’t believe you won’t be on Channel 5 tomorrow. I thought for sure they’d pick you up after obtaining the broadcast rights.
I’ve always enjoyed your commentary. At least I got to hear you when I streamed the LA marathon in March.
You’re right about Kipchoge. Even if he doesn’t win Boston or NYC, he’s still amazing.
Well said, Toni. You are right in the reality that Boston and NY are similar to the Olympics and World Championships in that they put a premium on racing. I look forward to the race and hope that EK does well.