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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Kenenisa Bekele still eyes Eliud Kipchoge’s marathon world record, but a duel must wait

Kenenisa Bekele
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LONDON — Kenenisa Bekele made headlines last week by declaring “of course I am the best” long distance runner ever. But the Ethiopian was fifth-best at Sunday’s London Marathon, finishing 74 seconds behind Kenya’s Amos Kipruto.

Bekele, 40, clocked 2:05:53, the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. He was with the lead pack until being dropped in the 21st mile.

But Bekele estimated he could have run 90 to 120 seconds faster had he not missed parts of six weeks of training with hip and joint injuries.

“I expect better even if the preparation is short,” he said. “I know my talent and I know my capacity, but really I couldn’t achieve what I expect.”

Bekele is the second-fastest marathoner in history behind Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, who broke his own world record by clocking 2:01:09 at the Berlin Marathon last week.

“I am happy when I see Eliud Kipchoge run that time,” Bekele said. “It motivates all athletes who really expect to do the same thing.”

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Bekele’s best time was within two seconds of Kipchoge’s previous world record (2:01:39). He described breaking Kipchoge’s new mark as the “main goal” for the rest of his career.

“Yes, I hope, one day it will happen, of course,” Bekele said. “With good preparation, I don’t know when, but we will see one more time.”

Nobody has won more London Marathons than Kipchoge, a four-time champion who set the course record (2:02:37) in 2019. But the two-time Olympic marathon champion did not run this year in London, as elite marathoners typically choose to enter one race each spring and fall.

Bekele does not know which race he will enter in the spring. But it will not be against Kipchoge.

“I need to show something first,” Bekele said. “I need to run a fast time. I have to check myself. This is not enough.”

Kipchoge will try to become the first runner to win three Olympic marathon titles at the Paris Games. Bekele, who will be 42 in 2024, has not committed to trying to qualify for the Ethiopian team.

“There’s a long time to go before Paris,” Bekele said. “At this moment I am not decided. I have to show something.”

So who is the greatest long distance runner ever?

Bekele can make a strong case on the track:

Bekele
Four Olympic medals (three gold)
Six World Championship medals (five gold)
Former 5000m and 10,000m world-record holder

Kipchoge
Two Olympic medals
Two World Championship medals (one gold)

But Kipchoge can make a strong case on the pavement:

Bekele
Second-fastest marathoner in history
Two World Marathon Major victories

Kipchoge
Four of the five best marathon times in history
Two-time Olympic marathon champion
12 World Marathon Major victories

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Yalemzerf Yehualaw, Amos Kipruto win London Marathon

Yalemzerf Yehualaw
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Ethiopian Yalemzerf Yehualaw became the youngest female runner to win the London Marathon, while Kenyan Amos Kipruto earned the biggest victory of his career in the men’s race.

Yehualaw, 23, clocked 2:17:26, prevailing by 41 seconds over 2021 London champ Joyciline Jepkosgei of Kenya.

Yehualaw tripped and fell over a speed bump around the 20-mile mark. She quickly rejoined the lead pack, then pulled away from Jepkosgei by running the 24th mile in a reported 4:43, which converts to 2:03:30 marathon pace; the women’s world record is 2:14:04.

Yehualaw and Jepkosgei were pre-race favorites after world record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya withdrew Monday with a right hamstring injury.

On April 24, Yehualaw ran the fastest women’s debut marathon in history, a 2:17:23 to win in Hamburg, Germany.

She has joined the elite tier of female marathoners, a group led by Kenyan Peres Jepchirchir, the reigning Olympic, New York City and Boston champion. Another Ethiopian staked a claim last week when Tigist Assefa won Berlin in 2:15:37, shattering Yehualaw’s national record.

Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first Olympic women’s marathon champion in 1984, finished Sunday’s race in 3:20:20 at age 65.

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Kipruto, 30, won the men’s race in 2:04:39. He broke free from the leading group in the 25th mile and crossed the finish line 33 seconds ahead of Ethiopian Leul Gebresilase, who said he had hamstring problems.

Kipruto, one of the pre-race favorites, had never won a major marathon but did finish second behind world record holder Eliud Kipchoge in Tokyo (2022) and Berlin (2018) and third at the world championships (2019) and Tokyo (2018).

Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, the second-fastest marathoner in history, was fifth after being dropped in the 21st mile. His 2:05:53 was the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. Bekele ran his personal best at the 2019 Berlin Marathon — 2:01:41 — and has not run within four minutes of that time since.

The major marathon season continues next Sunday with the Chicago Marathon, headlined by a women’s field that includes Kenyan Ruth Chepngetich and American Emily Sisson.

London returns next year to its traditional April place after being pushed to October the last three years due to the pandemic.

MORE: Bekele looks ahead to Kipchoge chase after London Marathon

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