On Sunday morning, Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia ran just two seconds outside of the marathon world record in a finishing time of 2:01:41. On a slightly wet and humid day, following what Bekele described as a less than ideal build, his run on Sunday was phenomenal–but not quite good enough for a world record.
Both Kipchoge and Bekele ran their times on identical Berlin courses one year apart, and when examining the splits of the race, they’re shockingly similar except for a few minor differences (but when you’re talking about two seconds overall, minor differences matter).
Kipchoge's 2018 splits
Bekele's 2019 splits
If you put the splits side by side, Kipchoge and Bekele ran identical times through 5K (14:24), two seconds apart through 20K (57:56 and 57:58), one second apart through the half (1:01:05 and 1:01:06) and at 40K, nearly identical times again (1:55:30 to 1:55:32).
The biggest discrepancy in cumulative time between the two runs was the 30K split. Kipchoge was at 1:26:45 in 2018 and Bekele was 1:26:55 in 2019. Ten seconds in a marathon at most levels is a blink of an eye, but when we’re talking two seconds away from a world record, it makes a difference. The 30K mark was when when Bekele was noticeably behind Birhanu Legese, who was in a comfortable lead. Over the next 12K, Bekele made up a lot of time, but not quite enough time to snag the world record.
Interestingly, Bekele was faster than Kipchoge at 40km. By only 2 seconds – 1:55:30 for Bekele vs 1:55:32 for Kipchoge. But Kipchoge’s final 2.2km were 4 seconds faster than Bekele's today. #berlinmarathon2019 #BerlinMarathon 2:01:41. Where’s it coming from? pic.twitter.com/K88xIkQYgV
— Ross Tucker (@Scienceofsport) September 29, 2019
Relative to Kipchoge, Bekele started slightly faster (5-15K) and finished (25-40K) slightly slower. It’s possible that Kipchoge’s more conservative start could have given him the edge one year ago.
In two weeks’ time, Kipchoge will line up once again in hopes of making history. The current world record holder is aiming to become the first person to run under two hours for the marathon, a mark he attempted in 2017 with the help of Nike and the creation of the Breaking2 project.
While it wasn’t Kipchoge out on the course on Sunday morning, it’s certainly encouraging to see someone run close to the historic mark without all the bells and whistles associated with the Ineos 1:59. If Kipchoge is successful in two week’s time, his mark won’t be an official world record due to the nature of the event. The Ineos 1:59 isn’t on a record eligible course and he has multiple pacers dropping in and out of the race (another aspect that makes the run ineligible). The hopefully historic run is tentatively set for October 12.