6 Quick Thoughts About The Fantastic Men’s Race at 2017 BMW Berlin Marathon

by LetsRun.com
September 24, 2017

The 2017 BMW Berlin Marathon in the books. Here are our 6 points of analysis of the men’s race. This piece is for those of you that were up at 3:15 am ET to watch it. If you didn’t watch it, read our full recap which includes these points of analysis plus a full blow by blow: Eliud Kipchoge (2:03:32) Holds Off Debutant Guye Adola (2:03:46) to Win 2017 Berlin Marathon as World Record Attempt Fizzles.

Quick Take #1: As if there was any doubt, Eliud Kipchoge is the greatest marathoner in history

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Coming into the race, most people,  including ourselves, believed that Kipchoge was the greatest marathoner the planet has ever seen. However, as we mentioned in our preview, if Wilson Kipsang had won this race — and particularly if he had broken the world record — a strong argument could be made that Kipsang was the greatest in history. Kipsang would have led Kipchoge in World Marathon Major wins, they’d be 2-2 head to head and Kipsang would have been only the second man in history to get back the marathon world record after losing it (with two-time Olympic champ Abebe Bikila, who set a WR in both of his Olympic wins in 1960 and 1964, being the other).

However, Kipchoge was the winner today and he’s now won 8 of his 9 career marathons and run at least 2:04:05 for five straight years.

If you count Kipchoge’s 2:00:25 in the Nike sub-2 exhibition, Kipchoge and Kipsang have run 9 of the fastest 21 marathons in history with Kipchoge having 5 and Kipsang 4. Kipchoge leads their head to head 3 to 1.

Screenshot (150)Kipchoge and Kipsang’s Fastest Marathons
World Rank / Time / Athlete / Event
1      2:00:25    Eliud Kipchoge 2017 Nike Breaking2
5      2:03:05    Eliud Kipchoge                    2016 London
7        2:03:13    Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich       2016 Berlin
9      2:03:23    Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich       2013 Berlin
10    2:03:32   Eliud Kipchoge       2017 Berlin
12     2:03:42    Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich       2011 Frankfurt
17     2:03:58    Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich       2017 Tokyo
19      2:04:00    Eliud Kipchoge                2015 Berlin
20     2:04:05    Eliud Kipchoge                 2013 Berlin
21     2:04:11    Eliud Kipchoge                2014 Chicago

Quick Take #2: The weather was a factor in missing the world record, but how much of a factor is uncertain

After the race, Kipchoge was asked about the race and he said the combination of Adola’s challenge and the weather made this the hardest marathon of his career. A slick course definitely didn’t help his chances of breaking the world record, but it’s impossible to say exactly how much time it cost him.

After the race, Kipchoge told reporters he knew by 5k that the world record wasn’t going to happen because it had rained before the race and and at points during the race. “After five kilometers I knew it was not possible,” said Kipchoge.  “I could see how the road was (with so many puddles)… That’s when I realized that the world record was not possible.”

It’s worth noting however that the women’s race featured an even bigger slowdown over the final 7.2 k. After a 69:40 opening half, at 35k, Gladys Cherono was on 2:19:26 pace but she ended up winning in 2:20:23.

Kipchoge has now run 10 marathons (including Breaking2), but he still believes that he can accomplish the one feat that has eluded him in the marathon and run the world record. We’re certainly not doubting him, and considering he ran 2:03:05 in London last year, he could definitely do it in the British capital next spring. But today’s race was another reminder that — even for a legend like Kipchoge — a lot of things have to go right in order to set a world record

Quick Take #3: What a debut from Guye Adola

Guye Adola

Guye Adola

By itself, running 2:03:46 — the fastest debut in history on a record-eligible course (Dennis Kimetto’s 2:04:16 at 2012 Berlin was the old record) — is a remarkable accomplishment. But even more remarkable was the way Adola accomplished it. He went out on world record pace through halfway (61:29), kept going close to that pace even when marathon titans Kipsang and Bekele could not handle it and then, as if we hadn’t seen enough, actually gapped Kipchoge — only the greatest marathoner of all time. Considering Kipchoge has only lost one marathon in his life, putting a gap on him in the final 5k of the race is about as close as you’re going to get to defeating him (Adola wound up 14 seconds behind Kipchoge at the finish, the closest anyone has come since Kipsang was 5 seconds back at 2015 London).

Though he was overshadowed by the Big 3 (we gave him all of one sentence in our preview), Adola was far from a nobody coming into the race as he is an accomplished half marathoner. He owns a 59:06 personal best at that distance achieved when he won the prestigious and lucrative Airtel Delhi Half-Marathon over Geoffrey Kamworor in 2014, after taking bronze at the World Half Champs earlier in the year. He also won his most recent half, March’s Rome-Ostia Half Marathon, in 59:18.

But given his stellar debut, the marathon is where he will want to focus now, and today’s run immediately enters him into the discussion of “best marathoners not named Eliud Kipchoge.” He’s also yet another star that is coached by the don of Ethiopian marathoning, Gemedu Dedefo, whose stable also includes 2017 Dubai champs Tamirat Tola and Worknesh Degefa, 2016 Boston champs Hayle Lemi and Atsede Baysa, and 2:04 man Tsegaye Mekonnen. What a training group that is.

One other thing about Adola’s run. This fall, we’ve been focused a lot on the depth of the World Marathon Majors and his great runs shows why. If a race only brings in a few big names and a couple of them don’t run well (like Bekele and Kipsang today), then the race could be a real dud. Imagine if Adola wasn’t in this field, the race would have been boring as heck as Kipchoge would have been running all alone after 30k and the storyline would only be that he didn’t get the WR instead of the fact that he won a great race.

Quick Take #4: The marathon gods claim their victims

Whenever a bunch of guys attack the world record, there is always collateral damage. If five guys go through halfway on world record pace, as they did today, the marathon gods are going to claim at least two of them, and that’s what happened as both Bekele and Kipsang wound up dropping out. Vincent Kipruto also wound up struggling as he was passed by Mosinet Geremew and Felix Kandie in the final mile, both of whom were almost 90 seconds behind Kipruto at halfway. Still, finishing 5th in 2:06:14 isn’t too bad when you go out way over your head.

Quick Take #5: An impressive run from Japan’s Yuta Shitara

Before the race, we documented Shitara’s bold quest to race Berlin just eight days after setting the Japanese national record in the half marathon (60:17). So how did he do today?

Very respectably, as it turns out, as he was 6th in 2:09:02 — a 25-second PR. Shitara could still benefit from running a more even pace (his splits were 62:57-66:05), but we’re sure he wants Toshinari Takaoka‘s national record of 2:06:17. That record will celebrate its 15th anniversary on October 2nd (Chicago 2002) but Shitara certainly will give it multiple scares in the years to come.

Shitara’s splits today in Berlin were much closer together than his marathon debut in Tokyo (61:55-67:32 for a 2:09:27).

Quick Take #6: A good bounce-back marathon for American Ryan Vail

Brooks’ Vail, 31, was the only U.S. pro, male or female, to race in Berlin today, and though he would have liked to have bettered his 2:10:57 pb, more than anything he was looking for a solid bounce-back after failing to finish a marathon since November 2014. That’s what he got as he took 8th place in 2:12:40, the third-fastest marathon by an American this year.

Update on 9/25: We reached out Vail for some more thoughts about his race and he wrote, “The time wasn’t what I was hoping for, but I won the pace group by around 20 seconds, so I’m happy I had the mental drive to compete after being out so long… [I’m] proud to be top 10 and want to use this as a springboard toward 2020.”

That’s our race recap. Top 30 results appear below. Talk about the thrilling race on our messageboard.

Top 30 Men’s Results

1 Kipchoge, Eliud (KEN) 2:03:32
2 Adola, Guye (ETH) 2:03:46
3 Geremew, Mosinet (ETH) 2:06:09
4 Kandie, Felix (KEN) 2:06:13
5 Kipruto, Vincent (KEN) 2:06:14
6 Shitara, Yuta (JPN) 2:09:03
7 Sano, Hiroaki (JPN) 2:11:24
8 Vail, Ryan (USA) 2:12:40
9 Adams, Liam (AUS) 2:12:52
10 Mellor, Jonathan (GBR) 2:12:57
11 Malaty, Benjamin (FRA) 2:13:10
12 Belachew, Melaku (ETH) 2:13:22
13 Gokaya, Koji (JPN) 2:14:28
14 Lashyn, Dmytro (UKR) 2:14:45
15 Tiruneh, Chalachew (ETH) 2:15:05
16 Lehmann, Adrian (SUI) 2:15:12
17 Kikuchi, Masato (JPN) 2:15:32
18 van Schuerbeeck, Willem (BEL) 2:15:49
19 Seaward, Kevin (IRL) 2:15:50
20 Sharp, Matt (GBR) 2:16:02
21 Csere, Gaspar (HUN) 2:16:03
22 Abdulaziz, Ebrahim (NOR) 2:16:38
23 Cuneaz, Rene (ITA) 2:16:53
24 Martelletti, Paul (NZL) 2:17:10
25 Mull, Brandon (USA) 2:17:17
26 Kreienbühl, Christian (SUI) 2:17:17
27 Herzog, Peter (AUT) 2:17:37
28 Criniti, David (AUS) 2:17:57
29 Arrospide, Iraitz (ESP) 2:18:09
30 Gelaw, Getaye Fisseha (ETH) 2:18:15

Editor’s note: The quote from Kipchoge saying he knew at 5k that he couldn’t get the WR comes from Race Results Weekly.

PS. This was our favorite part of the broadcast.