Honolulu, HI. – It has been quite the last two years for the exceptional Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya. After an unofficial but stunning 2:00:25 sub-2 hour marathon record attempt in Italy last year, Kipchoge dashed to a fully legal 2:01:39 world record in Berlin this September, breaking Dennis Kimetto’s 2014 mark by 1:18. The time represented the widest margin that record had been broken since 1967 when Australia’s DerekClayton lowered the record from 2:12:00 to 2:09:36 in Fukuoka, Japan. And Kipchoge’s run in Berlin followed a clear victory at this April’s London Marathon against one of the strongest field’s ever assembled in the event’s rich history.
Yesterday in Monaco, the 34-year-old Kipchoge was named 2018 IAAF Male Athlete of the Year for his efforts, joining Columbia’s triple jumper Caterine Ibargüen who was named Female AOY.
2018 marks the first time since the award began in 1988 that a marathon runner earned the prestigious AOY award on the men’s side (Paula Radcliffe of England took AOY honors in 2002 for women).
Not only did Kipchoge’s record in Berlin break the old mark by a wide margin, it was also the second year in a row that Kipchoge topped the world list as fastest marathoner of the year.(more…)
In this bitterly pitted world where truth and honor have fallen like so many past pillars of a once civil society, who can afford to take anything at face value anymore?
And yet with his sun shiny day 2:01:39 marathon world record in Berlin this past Sunday, Kenyan marathon master Eliud Kipchoge has risen to new heights of acclaim and glory.Already considered the best marathon runner in history, with ten wins in eleven starts, including the Olympic gold medal in Rio 2016 and an exhibition 2:00:25 super run in Italy 2017, the 33 year-old has long been recognized as a champion’s champion for his understated elegance and gentlemanly comportment.
I have long said that a sport must be fortunate in those who become its champions, for such designations must be earned not conferred. Nothing against previous marathon record holder Dennis Kimetto, but in terms of PR value to the game, Kipchoge is a major upgrade, as was the tolkienesque Ethiopian Haile Gebrselassie a decade ago.
Notwithstanding, despite all the hard-earned recognition that has come Kipchoge’s way, it is inevitable in these cynical times that some will raise questions about the legitimacy of the new record.As one long-time associate wrote to me right afterwards:
“Sadly, in today’s world, where we know how easy it is to beat the system, we have to hold them all under a blanket suspicion of sorts. Micro-dosing EPO, meldonium-like drugs making the rounds that are not illegal (yet) but have big PED effects, other designer drugs, so many westerners training in Ethiopia and Kenya, where the testers don’t go. Not only the Africans, it’s everywhere, even in the good old USA. Cheaters have always been a step ahead, now they’re 2 steps ahead.
“You’ve seen the WADA Report saying almost 40% of T&Fers have or are doping. Then that survey from the 2011 World Championships where 37% of athletes admitted to doping.”
Yes, it is all very unfortunate, but that is the world in which Kipchoge ran his new record. It is all a very jumbled up, mixed up world with very little in the way of universal conciliation.(more…)
In light of his other-worldly 2:01:39 marathon world record in Berlin last Sunday, there are some who are hailing Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge as the G.O.A.T, the greatest of all time male distance runner. Berlin was arguably the crowning achievement of his career, but does that mark added to the rest of his curriculum vitae make a case for GOAT? Let’s dig in and see.
GOAT Marathoner?Yes, indisputably, with ten wins in 11 starts, which include an Olympic gold medal and a 2:00:25 fastest ever exhibition, there isn’t anyone who can argue that point.But GOAT distance runner? That, I think, may be a step too far, though certainly he is in the top five.
A century ago the GOAT title was first held by Paavo Nurmi, the “Flying Finn” who dominated running in the early 20th century. Nurmi set 22 official world records at distances between 1500 meters and 20km, and won nine gold and three silver medals in Olympic competition. At his peak, Nurmi went undefeated in 121 straight races from 800 meters up, and was never beaten in cross country or the 10,000 meters.
In the 1950s the great Emil Zatopek, known as the “Czech Locomotive”, re-wrote the record books and introduced the concept of interval training. His Olympic Triple in Helsinki 1952 where he won the 5000, 10,000, and the marathon in his debut at the distance, all in Olympic record times, remains an unparalleled achievement. From there the GOAT crown moved south to East Africa where it resides to this day.(more…)
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? (more…)
(From a long, long time ago, when travel called and we answered readily, “drinking life to the lees”, as Tennyson would have it.)
Meki, Ethiopia – At the unkind hour of 5:49 a.m., a gentle rap on my door stirred me from a fitful sleep. It was the morning after the wedding in Meki, and we were off to Arsi Province and needed to make an early start of it.
Our driver – a man we took to calling Big Belay to differentiate him from our friend and host, Belay Wolashe, the runner – was evidently suffering from a keening hangover, as we found him passed out in the back of the Range Rover incapable of assuming even an upright posture, much less his driving duties.
“Big Belay, he sick last night,” said friend Belay, master of the obvious, in explaining the incense sticks burning throughout the car.
It soon became clear that the two Belays, cousin Andinet, and his friend had all slept in the car last night, as Mike Long, Rich Jayne, and I had taken the only three remaining single rooms at the tiny Ghion hotel.
Finding this out after the fact made us feel guilty as hell, but we hadn’t realized – nor been told – that there weren’t enough rooms to go around when it was suggested all three faranji (foreigners) bunk together in room # 8 last night. After our protestations, rather than inconvenience their guests, our friends simply acquiesced and slept in the car.
By 6:20 a.m. we were on the road, a mangy collective of mouth-breathers until the warm air could divest the vehicle of Big Belay’s overnight involvements. We soon dropped Andinet and his friend off upon coming to the main road to Addis Ababa. Then we continued on our way toward Asela.
After another hour, the Range Rover began to misfire, until we finally were forced to pull over to the side of the two-lane road. Parked atop a high wind-swept vista overlooking the Awash National Park, we took note as the Range Rover’s starter churned unsuccessfully in its attempt to catch.
No Triple-A to call here, so the two Belays got out and stood peering into the engine compartment searching for clues with a clutch of woefully inadequate tools they found in the boot. We were having another of what our Belay called, “oh, it is no problem” problem.
Conical thatch-roofed mud huts called tukuls, common in the countryside of the Arsi region, sat bunched some 100 meters off the road atop this pearl in the string of surrounding mountains. The valley below spread for miles upon miles, a misty washed-out hew of brown grassland partially covered in scrubby bush and accented by airy-topped Acacia trees.
Finally, Big Belay emerged from the raised hood with the carburetor in hand, holding it up for inspection before blowing out the dust that had clogged it. Satisfied with his work, he quickly reassembled and refitted it. Amazing. And off we went. (more…)
Strange to see Kenenisa Bekele still having issues in his marathons after such a long run of success on the track and cross country. After being widely recognized as the distance running G.O.A.T., you just expect each of his following steps to be equally agile and precise. But after eight marathon starts in four years, this GOAT seems to be butting his head against a particularly stubborn foe. To date he has only racked up two wins, one fewer than his total number of drop-outs.
Several years ago I wrote some verse – THEEND OF MYTH – about the demise of the marathon as a truly scary distance for top tier athletes after Ethiopian track man Markos Geneti ran 2:06 to win his debut at the 2011 Los Angeles Marathon. But every once a while, and notably with someone like Bekele, the old lady can still bare her teeth and say, “Not so fast”. (more…)
You can’t fool Mother Nature. If she doesn’t sanction it, nothing else matters. So despite the great field assembled by race director Mark Milde – including the Big 3 of former champions Kenenisa Bekele 2016, Eliud Kipchoge 2015, and Wilson Kipsang 2013 – despite the excellent pacing job that put the athletes right on record pace through 30km, when the start time temperature for today’s 44th BMW Berlin Marathon was in the mid-50s and the streets were puddled with rain – meaning high humidity – though it may not seem like an overly big thing, in fact, it was just enough of a thing to put the world record out of reach.
What’s the first lesson every coach drums into his/her athlete? Have realistic expectations. We have seen enough of these things to know that unless every piece of the puzzle falls into place – athletes, training, pace, competition, and conditions – all you can hope for is a great race. And we sure got that today. In fact, this marks the nth time a great duel has emerged in Berlin in recent years. (more…)