Eliud Kipchoge will return to Berlin Marathon this fall – Will he ever race NYC?

Double Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge has announced his fall marathon plans: he will return to Germany to defend the title he won last year in a world record of 2:01:09 at the BMW Berlin Marathon. It means that Kipchoge, 38, is opting to postpone his quest to win all six Abbott World Marathon Majors, picking Berlin – where has run five times already – in favor of New York, the one WMM event he has never run.

“Right now, I run towards Paris 2024,” Kipchoge said in an announcement video on Twitter. “But to achieve what inspires me in Paris, I must return to my special place – back to Berlin.”

Kipchoge finished second in his Berlin debut in 2013 but has won the race in his last four appearances (2015, 2017, 2018, 2022), setting world records in 2018 and 2022. This fall, he will face 2022 London champion Amos Kipruto in Berlin. The rest of the men’s elite field has yet to be announced.

The women’s race is headlined by Tigist Assefa of Ethiopia, a former 800m specialist who ran a shocking 2:15:37 course record to win Berlin last fall. She will face Kenya’s Sheila Chepkirui, who ran 2:17:29 in her debut in Valencia last year.

Our analysis below.

Why is Kipchoge returning to Berlin? There are a few possible explanations

Kipchoge will address the media on Saturday so we’ll get a better idea of his reasoning then, but from the few quotes from Kipchoge currently available, it sounds as if he is heading to Berlin to rebuild his confidence after he was humbled in Boston. Kipchoge called Berlin the “perfect preparation” for next year’s Olympics and while the race itself bears little resemblance to Paris – it’s flat and rabbitted, the Olympics has a hill and no rabbits – returning to Berlin, the site of some of his greatest successes, gives him a good chance to return to winning ways.

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There may also be more practical considerations. To win the Olympic marathon, Kipchoge first has to be in the Olympic marathon. In previous years, making the Kenyan team was not a major consideration for Kipchoge, but if he shows up to New York and gets beaten like he was in Boston, he’d be putting his spot in jeopardy. Even in that situation, he would still likely make the team if he wins London next year, but that is putting a lot of pressure on one race.

Meanwhile if he shows up to Berlin and wins, he’d have a great case to be on the team and might even be able to skip a spring 2024 marathon to focus 100% on Paris. That would be a departure from Kipchoge’s usual two-marathons-a-year schedule, but maybe it’s something he would consider as he ages (he turns 39, officially, this November). The Olympics in 2024 are earlier than they were in 2021 or 2016 so Kipchoge would have eight fewer days to get ready than he did in 2016 and one fewer day than 2021.

One final explanation is that Kipchoge saw what Kelvin Kiptum did in London, running 2:01:25 after a 59:45 second half, and wanted to take one more shot at lowering his world record and/or wanted to beat Kiptum to becoming the first human under 2:01 in an official marathon.

Will Kipchoge ever run New York?

Kipchoge has said he wants to win all six World Marathon Majors, but he’s taking his time getting around to New York: this is the second straight year he has chosen Berlin over New York even though he has already won Berlin multiple times. Of course, it’s hard to criticize his decision last year considering he set a world record in Berlin, but bypassing New York in 2023 means it is going to be very hard for Kipchoge to eventually win all six WMMs.

If Kipchoge follows his typical pattern in 2024, he will run a spring marathon followed by the Olympics and no New York (Kipchoge has never run three marathons in one year). That means no New York until 2025 at the earliest – three days before his 41st birthday. Kipchoge is only 10 months removed from running a world record, but at some point he will start to decline. And if Kipchoge handles New York like he handles Boston, it may take multiple tries to win.

Of course, skipping the spring season and going Olympics/New York is also a possibility if Kipchoge makes it to the Olympics.

Kipchoge has accomplished almost everything in the sport during his decorated career, but the one thing he has yet to do is win a hilly, unrabbitted marathon. His first one in Boston did not go well as he struggled in the Newton Hills and faded to sixth, and we will have to wait until 2024 at the earliest to see him attempt another.

That got us to wondering, does the 2024 Olympic marathon count as a hilly, unrabbited marathon? It’s way hillier than recent Olympic marathons although the first 15k and last 10k are totally flat.

The Olympic marathon elevation chart

(Related: Hilly Paris 2024 Olympic Marathon Course Revealed That Goes from Paris to Versailles and Back)

Will Eliud Kipchoge ever win NYC and/or Boston?

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What will Kelvin Kiptum do this fall?

Kiptum has run two marathons and both of them have been ridiculous: a 2:01:53 debut in Valencia last year with a 60:15 second half, followed by a 2:01:25 in London with a 59:45 second half.

After his London win, Kiptum said he thought he was still a few years away from breaking the world record, but if you can run 2:01:25 with a 59:45 second half, you can run faster than 2:01:09 on a perfect day. The future is never guaranteed in this sport – if Kiptum wants the world record, this fall is the time to take a crack. His best options are either Berlin or Valencia (December 3), where he is the defending champion and where Joshua Cheptegei is already committed for his debut.

A showdown between Kipchoge and Kiptum in Berlin this fall would be epic – either Kipchoge wins and shows he is still the best in the world in rabbitted races, or Kiptum wins and we’ve got a changing of the guard.

Kipchoge hasn’t shied away from competition in the past but if his goal is to restore confidence and get a win under his belt, we do wonder whether he might put his foot down with the Berlin organizers and ask them to block Kiptum from running. Or maybe, with Kipchoge in the field already, Berlin doesn’t have enough money for Kiptum and he chases a bigger appearance fee elsewhere. The Instagram account trackstaa says they reached out to Berlin organizers who told them Kiptum will not be racing Berlin this year. 

So that leaves Valencia, where Cheptegei is already committed, and Chicago (October 8) which also offers a flat, fast course. The Chicago weather is less reliable than Berlin and Valencia, but we kind of think that’s where he’ll end up.

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