Eliud Kipchoge, Keira D’Amato chase records at Berlin Marathon

Eliud Kipchoge
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Born 15 days apart in 1984, Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge and American Keira D’Amato have shown there are multiple routes to marathon success. Their paths converge somewhat as the top seeds at Sunday’s Berlin Marathon, where Kipchoge might break his world record while D’Amato could lower her American record.

Kipchoge, a 37-year-old who ran a few miles to and from school as a kid, took a more conventional route to 26.2-mile stardom. A standout on the track (world 5000m champion at age 18), he transitioned to the roads after missing Kenya’s Olympic team in 2012.

Over the last decade, he became the unquestioned greatest of all time: wins in 14 of his 16 marathons, the first person to break two hours over the distance (in a non-record-eligible event) and, at his last appearance on the pancake-flat course at the German capital in 2018, took the world record down from 2:02:57 to 2:01:39.

Kipchoge no doubt returned to Berlin — rather than enter November’s New York City Marathon for the first time, which he plans to do in the coming years — because he feels he can bring the record down even further. New York City is too hilly for fast times. The last seven instances the men’s marathon world record has been broken, it has come in Berlin.

In press conferences last Saturday and again on Friday, the philosophical Kipchoge declined to issue a world record-or-bust objective.

“I always say I don’t call a world record, but I aim to run a good race, be it a world record, be it a personal best, be it a good race,” he said. “But let us call it a good race.”

To Kipchoge, a good race isn’t merely about the time or the victory. It is, as has become somewhat of a motto, to inspire people to be active and to show “no human is limited.”

Kipchoge is just as fit as he was when he broke the world record in 2018, said his manager, Valentijn Trouw. The weather, as in 2018, is expected to be ideal for running. He will wear similar, but not the same model, Nike shoes. If anything external can be improved on that special day four years ago, it is the pacemaking, Trouw said.

One thing that is guaranteed to be different this year is Kipchoge’s seed time. Back then, his personal best entering Berlin was 2:03:05. He was a year away from his breaking-two-hours event.

“So he’s a little bit more experienced with running on that kind of pace,” Trouw said.

That Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele ran 2:01:41 in Berlin in 2019 at age 37 — two seconds shy of Kipchoge’s world record — is also a plus. Kipchoge is considered the greatest marathoner in history by a significant margin. If the times back that up, his personal best should be well clear of Bekele, who is arguably the greatest runner in history over all distances as the former world record holder at 5000m and 10,000m.

Bekele is not in Sunday’s field to rival Kipchoge. Other top challengers are racing at next week’s London Marathon, though Ethiopian Guye Adola stands out among Berlin’s supporting cast. In 2017, Adola finished 14 seconds behind Kipchoge in Berlin in his 26.2-mile debut, but did little the next four years before winning Berlin last year in 2:05:45.

Trouw said that he’s had zero conversations with Kipchoge about his remaining shelf life as a marathoner. Haile Gebrselassie, the former world record holder from Ethiopia, earned his last marathon win at 36. Bekele, now 40, hasn’t been within five minutes of that 2:01:41 since he ran it.

“On a bigger scale, the Paris 2024 Olympics is absolutely in the front of his mind,” Trouw said of his client, who can become the first person to win three Olympic marathons. “The World Marathon Majors, he has won four out of six of the races. There are still two races remaining that he hasn’t been yet [Boston and New York City]. So that’s absolutely also one of the targets in the coming years.”

Then there is D’Amato. While Kipchoge built his marathon career, she went nearly a decade between competitive races after a middle-distance stint at American University. She got married, had two kids and worked in real estate before returning to running to lose baby weight.

She has chipped away since finishing the 2017 Shamrock Marathon in the sleet, hail and wind of Virginia Beach in 3:14:54. On Jan. 16, she broke the 16-year-old American women’s marathon record by clocking 2:19:12. That makes her the fastest woman in the Berlin field by personal best times.

No American male or female runner has won Berlin, one of six annual races designated as a World Marathon Major. Like Kipchoge, she entered this race, rather than New York City or even Chicago, to bolster her shot at a fast time.

No active American woman has run within 80 seconds of D’Amato’s national record, but they are accomplished. Sara Hall, the third-fastest American in history, was second in London and third in Chicago the last two years. Molly Seidel took third at the Olympics and fourth in New York City last year. Emily Sisson and Emma Bates are young talents who broke into the U.S. all-time top 10.

Of that group, only D’Amato is running Berlin, the first in a series of four major marathons over the next six weeks.

“There’s a number of American women that I think are also gunning for that record, so if I think if I don’t lower it myself, it’s not going to be mine for very much longer,” she said.

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Paris 2024 Olympic marathon route unveiled

Paris 2024 Olympic Marathon
Paris 2024
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The 2024 Olympic marathon route will take runners from Paris to Versailles and back.

The route announcement was made on the 233rd anniversary of one of the early, significant events of the French Revolution: the Women’s March on Versailles — “to pay tribute to the thousands of women who started their march at city hall to Versailles to take up their grievances to the king and ask for bread,” Paris 2024 President Tony Estanguet said.

Last December, organizers announced the marathons will start at Hôtel de Ville (city hall, opposite Notre-Dame off the Seine River) and end at Les Invalides, a complex of museums and monuments one mile southeast of the Eiffel Tower.

On Wednesday, the rest of the route was unveiled — traversing the banks of the Seine west to the Palace of Versailles and then back east, passing the Eiffel Tower before the finish.

The men’s and women’s marathons will be on the last two days of the Games at 8 a.m. local time (2 a.m. ET). It will be the first time that the women’s marathon is held on the last day of the Games after the men’s marathon traditionally occupied that slot.

A mass public marathon will also be held on the Olympic marathon route. The date has not been announced.

The full list of highlights among the marathon course:

• Hôtel de ville de Paris (start)
• Bourse de commerce
• Palais Brongniart
• Opéra Garnier
• Place Vendôme
• Jardin des Tuileries
• The Louvre
• Place de la Concorde
• The bridges of Paris
(Pont de l’Alma; Alexandre III;
Iéna; and more)
• Grand Palais
• Palais de Tokyo
• Jardins du Trocadéro
• Maison de la Radio
• Manufacture et Musées
nationaux de Sèvres
• Forêt domaniale
des Fausses-Reposes
• Monuments Pershing –
Lafayette
• Château de Versailles
• Forêt domaniale de Meudon
• Parc André Citroën
• Eiffel Tower
• Musée Rodin
• Esplanade des Invalides (finish)

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International Boxing Association lifts ban on Russia, Belarus

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The International Boxing Association (IBA) lifted its ban on amateur boxers from Russia and Belarus over the war in Ukraine that had been in place since early March.

“The IBA strongly believes that politics shouldn’t have any influence on sports,” the federation said in a press release. “Hence, all athletes should be given equal conditions.”

Most international sports federations banned athletes from Russia and Belarus indefinitely seven months ago, acting after an IOC recommendation. It is believed that the IBA is the first international federation in an Olympic sport to lift its ban.

The IOC has not officially changed its recommendation from last winter to exclude Russia and Belarus athletes “to protect the integrity of the events and the safety of the other participants.”

Last week, IOC President Thomas Bach said in an interview with an Italian newspaper that Russian athletes who do not endorse their country’s war in Ukraine could at some point be accepted back into international sports, competing under a neutral flag.

IBA, in lifting its ban, will also allow Russia and Belarus flags and national anthems.

“The time has now come to allow all the rest of the athletes of Russia and Belarus to participate in all the official competitions of their sports representing their countries,” IBA President Umar Kremlev, a Russian, said in a press release last week. “Both the IOC and the International Federations must protect all athletes, and there should be no discrimination based on nationality. It is the duty of all of us to keep sports and athletes away from politics.”

In 2019, the IOC stripped the IBA — then known as AIBA — of its Olympic recognition following an inquiry committee report into finance, governance, refereeing and judging. The IOC ran the Tokyo Olympic boxing competition.

The IBA will not run qualifying events for the 2024 Paris Games, but it does still hold world championships, the next being a men’s event in Uzbekistan next year.

Boxing, introduced on the Olympic program in 1904, was not included on the initial program for the 2028 Los Angeles Games but can still be added. The IBA must address concerns “around its governance, its financial transparency and sustainability and the integrity of its refereeing and judging processes,” Bach said last December.

On Sept. 23, the IBA suspended Ukraine’s boxing federation, citing “government interference.” Ukraine boxers are still allowed to compete with their flag and anthem.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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