Wilson Kipsang Enters All-Time Great Status with 2:03:58 Japanese All-Comers Record at Tokyo Marathon

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by LetsRun.com
February 26, 2017

Kenyans Wilson Kipsang cemented his legacy as one of the all-time greats in the marathon as he ran 2:03:58 to win Sunday’s 2017 Tokyo Marathon, smashing the Japanese all-comers record and recording his fourth sub-2:04:00 clocking in the marathon in the process. Kipsang, who predicted before the race that he would break Dennis Kimetto’s world record of 2:02:57, was on world record pace through halfway but faded over the final 10 kilometers. 

Kipsang, like Sarah Chepchirchir in the women’s race (who ran 2:19:47 to also set a Japanese all-comers record) took advantage of terrific marathoning conditions (winds under 10 miles per hour and a starting temperature of 46 degrees Fahrenheit) and a redesigned Tokyo course that moved the hills to the middle of the course from the end.

American Andrew Bumbalough finished 25th in his debut in 2:13:58.

Full recap and analysis of the men’s race below. The women’s race is recapped separately here. In addition to Chepchirchir’s record, American Sara Hall ran a terrific race to take sixth in a big personal best of 2:28:26 while Bowerman Track Club runner Betsy Saina, who was on 2:20:53 pace at 20km, blew up big time the second half and dropped out before 40km in her debut.

Kipsang starting to pull away

Kipsang starting to pull away

Men’s Race

The rabbits were tasked with running 2:03:04 pace, just off world record pace, but they went out significantly faster of that, clocking 14:14 (2:00:06 pace) for the first 5k, in part because the course drops approximately 100 feet over that span. At that point, 13 men (8 racers and 5 rabbits) were within two seconds of the lead.

That sort of pace was unsustainable, but the tempo remained quick for the first half. The leaders clicked off splits of 14:36, 14:44 and 14:31 for the next three 5k segments, and at halfway (61:21), the world record hunt was on as Kipsang, 2014 champ Dickson Chumba, Kenyans Gideon Kipketer and Evans Chebet and Ethiopian Solomon Deksisa were all in the lead group. Six seconds behind them came a group of four, with rabbit Cosmas Birech leading the Kenyan trio of Alfers Lagat, Bernard Kipyego and Bernard Koech.

Chebet was the first of the lead group to break, falling off during the 25th kilometer, with Kipketer and Deksisa quickly following suit. By the time the final rabbit stepped off at 30 kilometers, only Kipsang and Chumba remained.

Even though the two men were dropping the competition, their pace was slowing as they split 14:40 from 25k to 30k. Kipsang and Chumba were now slightly behind world record pace (they were on 2:02:59 pace), but their 1:27:27 split was still 10 seconds ahead of Kimetto’s 30k split in Berlin three years ago.

This was where the two races diverged. Whereas Kimetto ripped off a 14:10 from 30k to 35k, Kipsang slowed to 15:00, his slowest segment of the race. Sensing that the record was slipping away, he began to attack just before 35 kilometers, creating a gap on Chumba that would not close. Despite the mild temperatures, the sun was shining and Kipsang, now drenched in sweat, had left himself too much work to do. His next 5k was slower still — 15:02 — but he held on to record the first-ever sub-2:04 on Asian soil and the fourth of his career (no one else has more than two).

Chumba, who had looked good at 30 kilometers, struggled the rest of the way home and was ultimately passed for second as Gideon Kipketer followed up his third place in Chicago last fall with a 2+ minute PR of 2:05:51. Chumba settled for third for the second year in a row in 2:06:25.

24-year-old Hiroto Inoue was the top Japanese finisher in 2:08:22, leading a parade of four Japanese men under 2:10.

Analysis below results

Top 30 results

1ウィルソン・キプサング KIPSANG Wilson Wilson KIPSANG2:03:58
2ギデオン・キプケテル KIPKETER Gideon Gideon KIPKETER2:05:51
3ディクソン・チュンバ CHUMBA Dickson Dickson CHUMBA2:06:25
4エバンス・チェベト CHEBET Evans Evans CHEBET2:06:42
5アルフェルス・ラガト LAGAT Alfers Alfers LAGAT2:07:39
6バーナード・キピエゴ KIPYEGO Kiprop Bernard Bernard Kiprop KIPYEGO2:08:10
7ヨハネス・ゲブレゲルギシュ GHEBREGERGISH Yohanes Yohanes GHEBREGERGISH2:08:14
8井上 大仁 INOUE Hiroto Hiroto INOUE2:08:22
9ツェガエ・ケベデ KEBEDE Tsegaye Tsegaye KEBEDE2:08:45
10山本 浩之 YAMAMOTO Hiroyuki Hiroyuki YAMAMOTO2:09:12
11設楽 悠太 SHITARA Yuta Yuta SHITARA2:09:27
12ソロモン・デクシサ DEKSISA Solomon Solomon DEKSISA2:09:31
13服部 勇馬 HATTORI Yuma Yuma HATTORI2:09:46
14今井 正人 IMAI Masato Masato IMAI2:11:02
15野口 拓也 NOGUCHI Takuya Takuya NOGUCHI2:11:04
16高宮 祐樹 TAKAMIYA Yuki Yuki TAKAMIYA2:11:05
17ジョフリー・ロノ RONOH Geoffrey Geoffrey RONOH2:11:20
18中村 祐紀 NAKAMURA Yuki Yuki NAKAMURA2:12:58
19圓井 彰彦 TSUMURAI Akihiko Akihiko TSUMURAI2:13:27
20橋本 崚 HASHIMOTO Ryo Ryo HASHIMOTO2:13:29
21岡本 直己 OKAMOTO Naoki Naoki OKAMOTO2:13:33
22五ヶ谷 宏司 GOKAYA Koji Koji GOKAYA2:13:52
23マリウス・キプセレム KIPSEREM Marius Marius KIPSEREM2:13:53
24濱崎 達規 HAMASAKI Tatsunori Tatsunori HAMASAKI2:13:57
25アンドルー・バンバロー BUMBALOUGH Andrew Andrew BUMBALOUGH2:13:58
26小山 司 KOYAMA Tsukasa Tsukasa KOYAMA2:13:58
27近藤 秀一 コンドウ シュウイチ shuichi kondo2:14:13
28柴田 拓真 シバタ タクマ takuma shibata2:15:02
29松井 将器 MATSUI Masaki Masaki MATSUI2:15:18
30池田 宗司 IKEDA Soji Soji IKEDA2:15:21
Kipsang has done one thing Kipchoge has never done, break a world record

Kipsang has done one thing Kipchoge never has: break a world record

Quick Take #1: Eliud Kipchoge is the GOAT for now, but Wilson Kipsang is making a case for that title

After Kipchoge won the Olympic title in Rio last summer, we called him without a doubt the greatest marathoner of all time. But since that race, Kipsang has run 2:03:13 in Berlin (#4 all-time on a record-eligible course) and 2:03:58 in Tokyo (#12 all-time on a record-eligible course).

As of now, we’re still going with Kipchoge, who is 2-1 head-to-head vs. Kipsang, has a faster PR (2:03:05) and an Olympic gold medal. Plus Kipchoge has won his last six marathons dating back to the start of 2014; the only marathon he did not win was 2013 Berlin when Kipsang beat him while setting the world record. But this could turn into a Roger Federer/Rafael Nadal situation where it’s hard to assess everything until both athletes have finished their careers. One thing that will hurt Kipsang is his lack of an Olympic gold medal. He entered London 2012 as the favorite but made a tactical mistake and ran the third 5k segment in 14:11, forcing him to settle for bronze.

Still Kipsang has to rank among the very best to ever race over 26.2 miles, and he’s now won four of the six World Marathon Majors (Tokyo, Berlin, London and New York). He’s said he’d like to win them all before he retires, so don’t be surprised to see him run Chicago and Boston over the next few years.

Men with multiple sub-2:04 marathons
4 Wilson Kipsang (2011 Frankfurt, 2013 Berlin, 2016 Berlin, 2017 Tokyo)
2 Dennis Kimetto (2013 Chicago, 2014 Berlin)
2 Emmanuel Mutai (2013 Chicago, 2014 Berlin)

Quick Take #2: What kind of “science” could possibly allow anyone to run sub-2:00 this year?

As we were watching this one unfold, we kept thinking two things: 1) this is an amazing run by Kipsang; 2) he’s nowhere near sub-2:00, so how in the world does Nike expect anyone to break 2:00 this year?

Friend of LRC Cathal Dennehy summed it up nicely.

The spoils of victory

The spoils of victory

Consider that ludicrous 14:14 opening 5k. If Kipsang had run that pace for the entire marathon, he still wouldn’t have broken 2:00.

Nike has announced that the course for its sub-2:00 attempt this spring will be record-eligible, so that means no massive downhills. And while Nike may still have some scientific/technological advantages up its sleeve, it’s not as if Kipsang has been going it alone. He has been working with the rival Sub 2Hrs Project, wore a new adidas shoe for this race and used a special carbohydrate drink.

Kipsang mentioned after the race that he could feel some wind on the course, but conditions were very good for running today. Even with slightly better pacing, a faster course (though this new Tokyo layout seems quick) and perfect weather, chopping 3:58 off Kipsang’s time today does not seem possible.

Quick Take #3: The Japanese have terrific marathon depth

If we told you a 24-year-old American just ran 2:08:22 in the marathon, you’d probably lose your mind. Well 24-year-old Hiroto Inoue of Japan just ran 2:08:22 today. He was one of four Japanese men to break 2:10; something no American accomplished in all of 2015 or 2016.

When was the last time four Americans broke 2:10 in the same race? The last — and only — time it’s ever happened came at the 2012 Olympic Trials.

2012 U.S. Olympic Trials results

  1. Meb Keflezighi 2:09:09
  2. Ryan Hall 2:09:30
  3. Abdi Abdirahman 2:09:47
  4. Dathan Ritzenhein 2:09:55

Yet what the U.S. lacks in depth, it makes up for in top-end talent. Head-to-head, the U.S. clearly had a better showing in the Olympic marathon last year (3rd, 6th and 33rd vs. 16th, 36th and 94th). Since 2004, the U.S. has two Olympic marathon medals and two World Marathon Major victories. Japan hasn’t had a male Olympic medallist since 1992 and hasn’t had a major champion in the WMM era (two Japanese men have won Tokyo since 2004 but it didn’t become a major until 2013).

Quick Take #4: A solid debut for Andrew Bumbalough

Bumbalough was the only U.S. male professional to run in Tokyo, and he was 25th in 2:13:58. Bumbalough told us before the race that anything under 2:14 would be okay, so he won’t be too bummed. But he also said that he wanted to run a strong second half, and in that respect he’ll be disappointed: every one of his 5k segments was slower than the previous one (splits below). Still, Bumbalough never totally cratered even as he was slowing down, which shows toughness – a vital skill in the marathon. Bumbalough’s ultimate goal is to be ready to contend for a spot in the marathon on the 2020 Olympic team, and this was not a bad first step.

5km00:15:21 (0:15:18)0:15:1809:25:21
10km00:31:00 (0:30:57)0:15:3909:41:00
15km00:46:53 (0:46:50)0:15:5309:56:53
20km01:02:48 (1:02:45)0:15:5510:12:48
25km01:18:44 (1:18:41)0:15:5610:28:44
30km01:34:42 (1:34:39)0:15:5810:44:42
35km01:50:48 (1:50:45)0:16:0611:00:48
40km02:07:00 (2:06:57)0:16:1211:17:00
Finish02:13:58 (2:13:55)0:06:5811:23:58

More: LRC Kenyan Sarah Chepchirchir Announces Herself As a Marathon Star, Wins 2017 Tokyo Marathon in 2:19:47; American Sara Hall Runs Big PR of 2:28:26 It was a great day in Tokyo as both all-comers records fell.