The clock had just ticked over to two hours as he ran under the arches. Past experience told him that there was just a minute of running left. He knew that his world record of 2:01:39 would soon be history; the only question was by how much.
At one point it had seemed as though he had perhaps overcooked things, given his remarkable pace in the first half (59:50). But Kipchoge, now in his 21st year of racing internationally, knows his body better than anyone. He knew that even with a drop of pace in the second half – which, unsurprisingly, happened (it was ‘just’ 1:01:19) – he could still break the world record.
From 25km onwards, Kipchoge was out on his own, his lead growing with every stride. Over the course of the final 16 kilometres, he opened up a gap of almost five minutes on the rest of the field as he notched up his 15th victory in official marathon races, his fourth in Berlin.
“Berlin is a place that can give a person the chance to push the limits,” said the 37-year-old. “I’ve never believed in limits.”
Born: 5 November 1984. Coach: Patrick Sang.
Since bursting on to the scene as an 18-year-old at the 2003 World Championships in Paris, Kipchoge has charted his career path with precision, proving to be not only an indomitable spirit but also one of the most versatile distance runners of his generation.
But his successes on the roads may not have happened had it not been for a pivotal moment in his track career in 2012.
Kipchoge finished seventh in the Kenyan trial 10,000m race at the Diamond League meeting in Eugene that year, then finished in the same position three weeks later in the 5000m at the Kenyan Trials. Aged 27 at the time, and having earned bronze in 2004 and silver in 2008, Kipchoge had missed out on a third Olympic appearance.
It influenced his decision to move to the roads, though, and he immediately showed promise. He clocked 59:25 on his half marathon debut in Lille in September 2012 and went on to represent Kenya at the World Half Marathon Championships in Kavarna later that year, placing sixth.
He moved up in distance again and won the Hamburg Marathon in April 2013 in 2:05:30, the sixth fastest marathon debut in history at that time. Five months later, he improved his marathon PB to 2:04:05 to finish second in Berlin in a race in which the world record was broken.
It wasn’t long before he returned to the top spot of a marathon podium. His 2:05:00 triumph in Rotterdam in early 2014 marked the start of a six-year winning streak at the marathon, notching up 10 successive victories.
It included wins in Chicago (2014), London (2015, 2016, 2018 and 2019) and Berlin (2015, 2017 and 2018, the latter in a world record). But the most significant of his wins during that period was his triumph at the 2016 Olympics, making up for the disappointment of missing the 2012 Games.
Up until September 2018, the one accolade that had eluded Kipchoge was the world record. But a faultless 2:01:39 run in Berlin saw Kipchoge smash the mark by one minute and 18 seconds.
In his one race of 2020, Kipchoge’s winning streak came to an end at the London Marathon when he was hampered by an ear problem, eventually finishing eighth. But he rebounded in 2021 with a victory in Enschede before going on to successfully defend his Olympic title in Tokyo by a significant margin.
What sets Kipchoge apart is not just his incredible winning record (which currently stands at 15 wins from 17 races); it’s also his string of fast times. He has run 2:04:00 or faster on seven occasions and 2:05:00 or faster on 13 occasions – and that’s not including his 1:59:41 and 2:00:25 performances in experimental and unofficial races.
Now aged 37, Kipchoge has been racing internationally for 21 years. After each landmark achievement, the question is always asked: what next for Kipchoge? And still he continues to surprise his army of fans worldwide.
Kipchoge’s championship record
2002 World Cross Country Championships – U20 race, 5th
2003 World Cross Country Championships – U20 race, 1st
2003 World Championships – 5000m, 1st
2004 World Cross Country Championships – senior race, 4th
2004 Olympic Games – 5000m, 3rd
2005 World Cross Country Championships – senior race, 5th
2005 World Championships – 5000m, 4th
2006 World Indoor Championships – 3000m, 3rd
2007 World Championships – 5000m, 2nd
2008 Olympic Games – 5000m, 2nd
2009 World Championships – 5000m, 5th
2011 World Championships – 5000m, 7th
2012 World Half Marathon Championships – 6th
2016 Olympic Games – marathon, 1st
2021 Olympic Games – marathon, 1st
Kipchoge’s marathon career
1st, 2:05:30 – Hamburg, April 2013
2nd, 2:04:05 – Berlin, September 2013
1st, 2:05:00 – Rotterdam, April 2014
1st, 2:04:11 – Chicago, October 2014
1st, 2:04:42 – London, April 2015
1st, 2:04:00 – Berlin, September 2015
1st, 2:03:05 – London, April 2016
1st, 2:08:44 – Rio (Olympic Games), August 2016
1st, 2:03:32 – Berlin, September 2017
1st, 2:04:17 – London, April 2018
1st, 2:01:39 – Berlin, September 2018
1st, 2:02:37 – London, April 2019
8th, 2:06:49 – London, October 2020
1st, 2:04:30 – Enschede, April 2021
1st, 2:08:38 – Sapporo (Olympic Games), August 2021
1st, 2:02:40 – Tokyo, March 2022
1st, 2:01:09 – Berlin, September 2022
Marathon world record progression
2:12:00 Morio Shigematsu (JPN) Chiswick 1965
2:09:36.4 Derek Clayton (AUS) Fukuoka 1967
2:08:33.6 Derek Clayton (AUS) Antwerpen 1969
2:08:18 Rob de Castella (AUS) Fukuoka 1981
2:08:05 Steve Jones (GBR) Chicago 1984
2:07:12 Carlos Lopes (POR) Rotterdam 1985
2:06:50 Belayneh Densimo (ETH) Rotterdam 1988
2:06:05 Ronaldo da Costa (BRA) Berlin 1998
2:05:42 Khalid Khannouchi (MAR) Chicago 1999
2:05:38 Khalid Khannouchi (USA) London 2002
2:04:55 Paul Tergat (KEN) Berlin 2003
2:04:26 Haile Gebrselassie (ETH) Berlin 2007
2:03:59 Haile Gebrselassie (ETH) Berlin 2008
2:03:38 Patrick Makau (KEN) Berlin 2011
2:03:23 Wilson Kipsang (KEN) Berlin 2013
2:02:57 Dennis Kimetto (KEN) Berlin 2014
2:01:39 Eliud Kipchoge (KEN) Berlin 2018
2:01:09 Eliud Kipchoge (KEN) Berlin 2022
*Subject to the usual ratification procedure