Born 15 days apart in 1984, Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge and american Keira D’Amato have shown that there are multiple paths to marathon success. Their paths converge somewhat as the seeds for Sunday’s Berlin Marathon, where Kipchoge could break his world record while D’Amato could lower his American record.
Kipchoge, a 37-year-old who walked a few miles to and from school as a child, took a more conventional route to 26.2-mile stardom. A star on the track (world champion in the 5000m at 18), he made the transition to the roads after missing out on the Kenyan Olympic team in 2012.
Over the past decade he has become the undisputed greatest of all time: he has won 14 of his 16 marathons, he was the first to beat two hours over the distance (in an event not eligible for the record) and , in his last appearance on the pancake flat course in the German capital in 2018, dropped the world record from 2:02:57 to 2:01:39.
Kipchoge has no doubt returned to Berlin – rather than taking part in the New York City Marathon for the first time in November, which he plans to do in years to come – because he feels he can still bring down the record. New York City is too hilly for fast times. The last seven times the men’s marathon world record was broken was in Berlin.
At press conferences last Saturday and again on Friday, the philosopher Kipchoge declined to release a world record or fall goal.
“I always say that I don’t call it a world record, but my goal is to have a good race, whether it’s a world record, whether it’s a personal best, whether it’s a good race”, a- he declared. “But let’s call it a good race.”
For Kipchoge, a good race is not just about time or winning. It is, as it has become a kind of motto, to inspire people to be active and to show that “no human is limited”.
Kipchoge is as fit as he was when he broke the world record in 2018, his manager says, Valentijn Trouw. The weather, like in 2018, should be ideal for running. He will wear similar Nike shoes, but not of the same model. If anything exterior can be improved on that special day four years ago, it’s the pace, Trouw said.
One thing that is guaranteed to be different this year is Kipchoge’s tee time. At the time, his personal best entering Berlin was 2:03:05. He was a year away from his two-hour breakup event.
“So he’s a bit more experienced to run at that pace,” Trouw said.
This Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele ran 2:01:41 in Berlin in 2019 at age 37 – two seconds off Kipchoge’s world record – is also a plus. Kipchoge is considered the greatest marathon runner in history by a significant margin. If the times bear it out, his personal best should be a far cry from Bekele, who is arguably the greatest runner in history over any distance as a former world record holder in the 5,000m and 10,000m.
Bekele is not in Sunday’s field to compete with Kipchoge. Other big challengers are running in the London Marathon next week, though Ethiopian Guy Adola stands out among Berlin’s supporting cast. In 2017, Adola finished 14 seconds behind Kipchoge in Berlin on his 26.2-mile debut, but did little for the next four years before winning Berlin last year in 2:05:45.
Trouw said he had no conversations with Kipchoge about his remaining lifespan as a marathon runner. Haile Gebreselassiethe former world record holder from Ethiopia, won his last marathon victory aged 36. Bekele, now 40, hasn’t been within five minutes of that 2:01:41 time since running it.
“On a larger scale, the Paris 2024 Olympics are absolutely on his mind,” Trouw said of his client, who may become the first person to win three Olympic marathons. “The World Marathon Majors, he won four of the six races. There are still two races left that he hasn’t entered yet. [Boston and New York City]. It is therefore absolutely also one of the objectives for the years to come.
Then there’s D’Amato. As Kipchoge built her marathon career, she spent nearly a decade between competitive races after a stint in middle distance at American University. She got married, had two children and worked in real estate before taking up running to lose weight.
She’s been snacking since finishing the 2017 Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach sleet, hail and wind in 3:14:54. On January 16, she broke the 16-year-old U.S. women’s marathon record clocking 2:19:12. This makes her the fastest woman in the Berlin peloton in terms of personal best times.
No American runner, male or female, has won Berlin, one of six annual races designated as a World Marathon Major. Like Kipchoge, she competed in this race, rather than New York or even Chicago, to bolster her quick-time shot.
No active American woman has run within 80 seconds of D’Amato’s national record, but they are accomplished. Sara Roomthe third fastest American in history, has finished second in London and third in Chicago for the past two years. Molly Seidel third at the Olympics and fourth in New York last year. Emilie Sisson and Emma Bates are young talents who have broken into America’s top 10 of all time.
Of this group, only D’Amato runs in Berlin, the first of a series of four major marathons over the next six weeks.
“There are a number of American women who I think are also aiming for that record, so if I think if I don’t lower it myself, it won’t be mine for a very long time,” he said. she declared.
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