Kipchoge Narrowly Misses World Record In London Marathon Win – Runner’s World

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On Sunday at the London Marathon, Kipchoge surged to victory in serene, superlative fashion, his winning time of 2:03:05 the second-fastest in history on a record-eligible course and just eight seconds outside Dennis Kimetto’s world record of 2:02:57. 

By the time Kipchoge reached the finish, runner-up Stanley Biwott—who ran 2:03:51—had not even entered the home straight. As for Kenenisa Bekele—the Ethiopian who made a sparkling return to form to finish third in 2:06:36—he was languishing more than half a mile down the road. 

But when Kipchoge finally slowed to a stop, notching his sixth-straight marathon victory, he wasn’t entirely happy. 

The Kenyan shook his head, aware that with a more even pacing strategy, he would have not just beaten everyone who showed up on the day, but perhaps beaten everyone in history. 

“I realized I was a few seconds off the world record,” Kipchoge said. “It’s not really a disappointment. All in all I’m happy with the performance.”

And how does he plan to celebrate?

“I am old!” the 31-year-old said. “I will not celebrate. I’ll just thank my fans, my Facebook friends, Twitter friends, coaches, management, and everyone for the help they have given me. I’m not a person to go out on the town.”

Perhaps that was fitting, because his preceding 26.2 miles on the streets of London proved celebration enough—never did they appear anything other than a victory parade for Kipchoge.

When the gun set the runners on their way in Greenwich Park this morning, conditions were cold, crisp, in stark contrast to the scorching first mile of 4:30. 

With three pacemakers heading up the field, Kipchoge assumed pole position between them, announcing himself as the one least bothered by the ferocious tempo.

“I was really comfortable at the pace,” he said. “My coach told me I am the best in the field, so as the best I should go with the pacemakers. I was checking the clock in the [lead] car and was happy with the times at 5K, 10K, and the half marathon.”

The times he speaks of in such casual terms were anything but ordinary. 

A lead group of 11 passed 10K in 28:37, halfway in 1:01:24, and 30K a world record of 1:27:13. By then, they appeared well on course to break the marathon world record of 2:02:57, with just Kipchoge and Biwott alone at the front. 

At that point, record holder Kimetto was more than three minutes behind, while former London champion Wilson Kipsang was a minute back. 

Bekele, meanwhile, was only 50 meters behind the leading two. Despite running his best race in many years, he was not best pleased.

“Five times someone took my drinks,” Bekele said afterward. “It was the pacemaker. I am not happy.”   

Kipchoge and Biwott ran side-by-side as they reached London’s embankment with two miles to go, but even then it was clear who held all the aces. 

“I was really prepared for the last five miles,” Kipchoge said, and it showed. 

Biwott’s long frame covered ground with an increasingly staccato rhythm, his face beginning to send out distress signals. Kipchoge, meanwhile, had a composed rhythm, flowing as efficiently as it did in the first mile.

Slowly but surely, the defending champion cranked down the gears, dropping a 4:43 mile with three miles to run, followed by a 4:38. 

That left him alone for his victory coronation on London’s Mall, and he rounded the home turn in splendid isolation, his 4:35 last mile bringing him to the finish in 2:03:05.

“I realized after 40 kilometers that I was off the world record pace, so I tried to push,” Kipchoge said, “but it’s not really a disappointment.”

Back in second, Biwott was also pleased, aware he had come up against an unstoppable force on the day. “I am very happy,” the 2015 New York City Marathon champion said. “I ran my personal best today, so I’ll move forward with this.”

For Bekele, who finished third in 2:06:36, the race signaled the start of a return to his former greatness after two years of injury. But the triple Olympic gold medalist was not getting carried away.

“Maybe for an injured person, it was okay,” said Bekele, who added that he had just seven weeks of consistent training for the race. “But I think as the best runner, it’s not enough. I need to improve.” 

Bekele’s agent Jos Hermens, who also manages Kipchoge, was understandably delighted with his protégés.

“They are both my boys,” he said. “Kenenisa surprised me. He was very badly injured this year, and if you told me yesterday he would run 2:06 and get third, I would sign immediately. Eliud put in an amazing performance. I hope they can both stay healthy and those guys can have a big fight together.”

With both likely to be selected for the Olympics, that rematch is less than four months away. 

Given he has no celebration planned, Kipchoge’s mind is already shifting to the Games, his mission to secure the one final prize that will cement his status as the greatest marathoner of all time: an Olympic gold medal.

“I want that more than anything,” he said. “My path now is to Rio.”

Shortly after the race, Runner’s World asked Kipchoge’s coach, Patrick Sang, about the secret of the Kenyan’s enduring greatness. After all, it’s been 13 years since he took his first global title at 5,000 meters.

“When you love something, you will always do your best, just like a parent who loves their children,” Sang said. “Eliud loves this sport, and he will always try to do his best for the sport.”

Perhaps the man who best summed up Kipchoge’s talent, though, was Canada’s Rob Watson, who finished 21st in 2:18:45, closing the door on his Olympic ambitions. 

When walking through the finish area, Watson caught sight of Kipchoge’s result on a nearby television.

“How did he run that fast?” Watson said. “It was so windy out there…He’s on another level.”

Kipchoge Narrowly Misses World Record In London Marathon Win – Runner’s World