By the time he reached the finish line, blistered and bloodied, there was little doubt that Eliud Kipchoge had established himself as the world’s best marathoner.
The Kenyan routed the field at the Berlin Marathon on Sunday in a personal best of 2:04:00, finishing 81 seconds ahead of runner-up Eliud Kiptanui.
As was the 2:19:25 that Gladys Cherono ran to win the women’s race, Kipchoge’s time was the fastest in the world this year. But it was the circumstances under which Kipchoge dispatched the field that established him as the most formidable marathoner in the world.
Kipchoge ran the vast majority of the race with his insoles hanging loose from his shoes, a footwear malfunction that caused considerable pain and distraction through the latter part of the race.
“It was not easy,” he said. “There are blisters on the left foot and my big toe is cut, with lots of blood.” “I have been competing using the Nike shoe for long though.”
When the field set off in cool and sunny conditions in the city’s Tiergarten, hopes were high that Dennis Kimetto’s world record of 2:02:57—set last year in Berlin—would be threatened, with Kipchoge, the London winner in April, seen as the one most likely to do it.
But in the first mile, Kipchoge’s left insole began to come loose and slide out of his shoe. By the time he reached 10K mark with the leaders in 29:19, five seconds ahead of world record schedule, his right insole was doing the same.
At the pace they were moving at, Kipchoge didn’t dare risk stopping, not only to avoid losing ground, but also out of fear of making the situation worse. “I had pain in my foot, but what could I do?” he said. “I had to finish the race.”
When the lead group reached halfway in 61:53, Kipchoge ran directly behind the pacemakers, but he had others for company: fellow Kenyans Emmanuel Mutai, Geoffrey Mutai, and Eliud Kiptanui along with Ethiopians Feyisa Lilesa and Tamirat Tola.
By 30K, Boston and New York City course record holder Geoffrey Mutai and Tola had been dropped, with Emmanuel Mutai and Kipchoge pushing the pace at the front. Right around the 20-mile mark, Kipchoge made the first significant move of the race.
With his insoles still flapping to the side, Kipchoge moved to the front, opening up his powerful stride and moving clear. He covered the five kilometers between 30K and 35K in 14:23, by far the fastest section of the race. When he ran through the Brandenburg Gate with a quarter mile to go, his rivals were out of sight.
When he crossed the finish line, arms outstretched, in 2:04:00, Kipchoge brought to five his number of marathon wins out of six attempts at the distance. His only defeat was in Berlin two years ago, when he was second behind Wilson Kipsang’s then-world record of 2:03:23.
Kipchoge’s superlative showing on Sunday slid him to the top of 2015 Abbott 2015 World Marathon Major (WMM) series leader board. He travelled back home last night via Amsterdam and was expected to land 6:30am today morning.
“I am happy to have lowered my personal best. I hope I will hit the world record one, God willing,” Kipchoge told FeverPitch through telephone from Berlin yesterday.
Kipchoge, who holds a diploma in Human Resource from Alphax College in Eldoret, now tops the WMM series leader board with 50 points ahead of Ethiopians Yemane Tsegaye (32 points), Endeshaw Negesse, Lelisa Desisa and Eritrea’s Ghirmay Ghebreslassie, who tie in third place with 25 points.