The undisputed greatest marathoner of all time, Eliud Kipchoge, returns to the Berlin Marathon on Sept. 25. He looks to become the second man ever to win four Berlin Marathon titles, and, more importantly, he’ll be chasing his world record of 2:01:39, which he set in 2018.
Since winning his second straight Olympic marathon title in Tokyo, Kipchoge has been clear about his future goals in the sport. He wants to win an unprecedented third Olympic marathon title in Paris in 2024, win all six Abbott World Marathon Majors and break his world record.
Kipchoge, who will turn 38 in November, is not getting any younger, and only has a few opportunities left to potentially break his 2:01:39. Although many fans of the sport looked forward to him making his Boston or New York Marathon debut this fall, Berlin presents itself as a final opportunity for the double Olympic marathon champion to break the world record.
The course in Berlin is well known for being fast, flat and easy to traverse, plus the previous seven world records have been set on this exact course. If there are going to be any world records broken, Berlin is the place to do it.
“Berlin is the fastest course,” said Kipchoge in a video posted on his Instagram. “It’s where a human being can showcase their potential to push the limits.”
In addition to the advantageous course, September in Berlin brings ideal weather, and this Sunday is predicted to be a favourable 8 C and sunny at the start of the race, with next to no wind in the forecast. For marathoners, this is perfect weather, and it can often contribute to faster times.
This Sunday will be the fifth Berlin Marathon of Kipchoge’s career. He has won on the last three occasions, with his worst finish coming at his second-ever marathon in 2013, where he finished second in 2:04:05 (the fifth-fastest time in history at the time) to eventual world record holder Wilson Kipsang of Kenya, who ran 2:03:23.
Since then, Kipchoge has handily beaten his competition, winning Berlin in a personal best 2:04-flat in 2015 with blistered feet and again in 2017, with a time of 2:03:32. He last raced this course in 2018, where he shattered the previous world record by one minute and 18 seconds, which was the greatest improvement of the marathon world record since 1967. Kipchoge won by four minutes and 43 seconds, ahead of his Kenyan compatriot Amos Kipruto.
Although Kipchoge has not publicly said he is after his world record, he says his decision to come to Berlin was to run a very strong race. “I will try to push myself. I always say, if you want to push yourself, come to Berlin.”
The world record holder knows the course better than other elites in the field, and will certainly use it to his advantage on Sunday morning.
In 2019, Kipchoge showcased his speed at the INEOS 1:59 Challenge. He ran 4.4 laps of Vienna’s Hauptallee in 1:59:40, becoming the first person to break the two-hour barrier over the marathon distance. His time did not count as a world record under World Athletics rules due to the setup of the challenge, including a phalanx of pacers running in shifts to block the wind, and bottles supplied by cyclists.
For the world record to be broken, Kipchoge would have to average two minutes and 53 seconds per kilometre and run eight and a half consecutive 5K’s at 14:25. Before he began running marathons, Kipchoge was a double Olympic medallist in the 5,000m, winning silver in Beijing 2008 and bronze in Athens.
Kipchoge also holds the ninth fastest 5,000m time ever, with a 12:46.53 in 2004.
It is clear he has the experience, but how much speed does the 38-year-old have left in his legs to challenge his world record? And is Berlin his final opportunity?
The 2022 Berlin Marathon kicks off on Sunday, Sept. 25, at 3:00 a.m. E.T. Follow Canadian Running on Twitter for live race updates and reporting on the third marathon major of the year.