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Eliud Kipchoge chases world record at Berlin Marathon; how to watch

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Eliud Kipchoge insists, again, it’s not his goal, but he takes another crack at the world record at the Berlin Marathon, live on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold on Sunday.

NBC Sports Gold coverage starts at 2:30 a.m. ET for subscribers, with NBCSN broadcast and streaming coverage at 3.

“I just want to run my personal best, which stands at 2:03:05,” Kipchoge said Tuesday, according to Reuters, his typical pre-race mindset. “If a world record also happens, that will be good enough.”

Kipchoge, the 33-year-old Olympic champion from Kenya, is expected to challenge the 26.2-mile record of 2:02:57, set by countryman Dennis Kimetto at the 2014 Berlin Marathon.

“Eliud is going there to run for a world record,” countryman and pacer Sammy Kitwara said, according to Reuters. “He is hoping to run a world record of 2:02:40 or thereabouts.”

Kipchoge has come close to the world record in Berlin before.

In 2015, Kipchoge ran 2:04:00 to win with his soles flapping out from the backs of his shoes.

In 2017, Kipchoge won Berlin in 2:03:32, surely slowed by the weather — rain and humidity on the pancake-flat roads of the German capital.

In 2016, Kipchoge clocked his personal-best marathon of 2:03:05 in London, which makes him the third-fastest marathoner ever after Kimetto and Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele (2:03:03).

But Kipchoge may be best known for clocking 2:00:25 in Nike’s sub-two-hour marathon attempt in May 2017 on a Formula 1 race track in Italy. The time wasn’t record-eligible, however, as Kipchoge had the benefit of pacers shuffling in and out and drinks being given to runners via mopeds.

Not counting the breaking-two attempt, Kipchoge has won eight straight marathons, which is the longest streak at the highest level of the event in at least 50 years. Other legends Abebe Bikila and Haile Gebrselassie‘s streaks topped out at six.

Though Kipchoge is a veteran, he may still be in his marathon prime at age 33 and in his 11th go at the distance.

Gebrselassie’s fastest marathon came at age 35 (in his ninth marathon); Bekele at 34 (in his fourth marathon) and Wilson Kipsang (the only man to break 2:04 four times) at 34 (in his 16th marathon).

Then there’s the course. The last six times the marathon world record was lowered, it happened in Berlin. Seven of the eight fastest times in history (on record-eligible courses) were recorded in Berlin in the last seven years.

Kipchoge would likely benefit from other fast runners pushing him. That could come in the form of Kipsang and Eritrean Zersenay Tadese, the half-marathon world-record holder, both in Sunday’s field.

Top U.S. marathoner Galen Rupp and four-time Olympic track champion Mo Farah are slated for the Chicago Marathon on Oct. 7. Kenyan Geoffrey Kamworor defends his New York City Marathon title Nov. 4.

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MORE: Ato Boldon reflects on track and field season, looks to 2019

Ato Boldon reflects on track and field season breakouts, looks to 2019

Ato Boldon
NBC
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Track and field was supposed to suffer in 2018. Usain Bolt‘s first year in retirement. No Olympics or world outdoor championships. Even the other established stars — Allyson FelixJustin GatlinWayde van Niekerk — scarcely competed or missed the season altogether due to injury. 

In their absence, new blood rejuvenated the sport in the middle of the Olympic cycle. Christian ColemanNoah Lyles and Michael Norman kept U.S. men’s sprinting to the top. The 400m and 400m hurdles will offer some of the most anticipated head-to-heads in 2019, with at least one world-record watch.

NBC Sports analyst Ato Boldon recapped the season in the sprints and looked ahead to 2019 in a Q&A [editor’s additions in brackets] …

OlympicTalk: Overall thoughts on the year, the first post-Bolt and without a major championship?

Boldon: I never bought the whole argument that Bolt’s going to leave this huge void athletically. I thought he would leave a void personality-wise, and I think maybe that has been nullified a little bit with the likes of [Qatar’s] Abderrahman Samba [second-fastest 400m hurdler of all time in just his second season in the event] and Noah Lyles and Sydney McLaughlin. It turned out to be a pretty good year.

The 400m went through a huge change with the addition of Michael Norman to the mix. In the women’s 400m, I finally got the sub-49 I’ve been waiting for since Sanya Richards-Ross [in 2009]. I’m really excited to see the next worlds, Olympics, worlds cycle [2019, 2020, 2021] because there’s just so much young talent. There are a bunch of world records coming.

OlympicTalk: Who is the man in the sprints right now?

Boldon: I don’t know if that’s for sure yet. It could be Christian Coleman. We saw that last year when he ran 9.82. That last race he ran to win the Diamond League [a 9.79, factoring in conditions arguably the best 100m ever outside the Bolt era], to end the season with that sort of statement, to say I’ve gone to a place none of you guys have ever been, makes him the man unless I see differently.

OlympicTalk: Who is more likely to be challenged in 2019 – Coleman in the 100m or Lyles in the 200m?

Boldon: Coleman, though Lyles is going to have better competition next year [than in 2018]. Michael Norman is going to go back to practice and say, “Nobody understands how good I can be at the 200m. That’s probably my better event.” [though Norman ran the world’s fastest 400m of 2018 and broke the indoor 400m world record]

Norman has a natural rivalry with Lyles [they were 2016 Olympic Trials breakouts, finishing fourth and fifth in the 200m as 18-year-olds]. He did not take that loss to Lyles [in the 200m in Lausanne] as well as some people may think.

OlympicTalk: We barely saw Allyson Felix compete this year. What do you see from her?

Boldon: I think she felt like she had some unfinished business after the Olympics [edged for 400m gold]. The problem is that when you’re Allyson Felix, nothing less than gold is going to be the goal. And now her path to gold is harder than it has ever been in her career in any event.

At age 33 next year, it looks like she will have to run a time that she’s never run to beat Shaunae Miller-Uibo, who just ran 48.9 [at age 24], and Salwa Eid Naser, who just ran 49 flat [at age 20]. I don’t see any way Allyson Felix [personal best 49.26] wins another 400m world title or Olympic title.

OlympicTalk: Would her chances be better if she focused on the 200m?

Boldon: The 200m is not an option for her anymore. As you get older, the speed goes [away] first. She doesn’t have 21.6 speed anymore. And guess what, Shaunae Miller-Uibo is still going to be in that event. You have the Olympic champion, Elaine Thompson, if she can overcome the Achilles injury. Allyson’s chance might be slightly better in the 200m, but I think it’s like zero [in the 400m] versus a one.

OlympicTalk: Wayde van Niekerk will go more than a year between races, possibly as much as 18 months, after meniscus and ACL tears last fall. How concerned are you about him getting back to his best?

Boldon: Any time you’re the world-record holder, the best in the history of the event, there’s concern. But it’s a knee, and people recover from knees a lot better than other things. On a one-to-10 scale of being concerned, I’m probably about a four. It’s on the lower side. He’s going to be back. He’s young enough [26]. I expect him to be back if not at his best, then very close.

OlympicTalk: Single best performance of 2018?

Boldon: Samba in the 400m hurdles, that he ran 46.98 [second only to Kevin Young’s world record at the 1992 Olympics] with nobody around him. When him and Rai Benjamin [who won NCAAs in 47.02] hook up next year, I want to be there. Samba has run less than 20 races in that event in his career. The guy has basically rewritten what a great season is in that event with very little experience.

OlympicTalk: After all the breakouts in the last year, name somebody who will in the next year.

Boldon: There’s a young lady from the University of Georgia in the 400m. Her name is Lynna Irby. She ran 49.8 to win the NCAAs as a freshman, taking down Kendall Ellis. She also ran a really fast 200m [22.25, third fastest American this year]. I think she’s the next American star in the 200m and 400m. I love everything about her, how she competes, her form.

OlympicTalk: Justin Gatlin didn’t race much this year but has a bye into the world championships as defending 100m gold medalist. Can he contend with Coleman and Lyles?

Boldon: He did the right thing this year. When you’re an old gunslinger [Gatlin is 36], you only have so many shots left. You don’t shoot them in a year where you don’t have a world championships. I don’t know that Gatlin’s going to beat Coleman if Coleman stays healthy, but he can still be a factor, no question about it.

OlympicTalk: Does Coleman break the American record in the 100m next year [9.69]?

Boldon: Yes.

OlympicTalk: How fast does Lyles go in the 200m next year?

Boldon: 19.5 [after running in the 19.6s four times this year].

OlympicTalk: Do Coleman and Lyles each double up in the 100m and 200m in 2019?

Boldon: You’re going to see Coleman and Lyles running the 100m and the 200m next year at the world championships trials.

Lyles can be Olympic champion and world champion in the next three years if they fix his start [in the 100m]. He’s way better in the last 50 than Coleman. It could be that if Lyles showed up next year with a proper drive phase and better start mechanics, that Lyles can be a 100m-200m threat just like everybody else.

Everybody forgot that Coleman is a 19.8 performer [in the 200m from 2017]. I think he’s actually faster than that. His mechanics issues come late in the race.

OlympicTalk: What races are you looking forward to most next year?

Boldon: The matchup between Shaunae Miller-Uibo and Salwa Eid Naser in the women’s 400m and the 400m hurdles between Rai Benjamin and Abderrahman Samba.

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VIDEO: Simpson, Wightman win Fifth Avenue Mile titles

Jenny Simpson, Jake Wightman win Fifth Avenue Mile titles

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Jenny Simpson won her sixth straight Fifth Avenue Mile, while Brit Jake Wightman took his first title in the men’s race in a rainy New York City on Sunday.

Simpson, the Olympic bronze medalist and 2011 World champion at 1500m, extended her record to seven overall titles.

She clocked 4:18.9 on the wet road along Central Park, edging U.S. Olympic steeplechaser Colleen Quigley by three tenths. Emma Coburn, the world champion in the 3000m steeple, was fourth in 4:20.5.

“It’s kind of slick, so I wanted to play into that apprehension and take it out hard and say, if you want to run this race, you’ve got to come with me,” Simpson told Lewis Johnson on NBC. “We’re going to risk it all, life and limb.

“Colleen was a really formidable opponent today. I saved a little for her.”

Wightman, a 24-year-old who was 20th in the 1500m at the 2017 Worlds, held off four-time Fifth Avenue Mile winner Nick Willis of New Zealand. Wightman hit the tape in 3:53.6, six tenths ahead of Willis.

Olympic 1500m champion Matthew Centrowitz, who missed a week or two of training in August with a calf strain, finished 16th.

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly listed Centrowitz finishing 12th.

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MORE: Christian Coleman runs world’s fastest 100m in three years