Eliud Kipchoge Wins Record 5th Berlin Marathon in 2:02:42

Eliud Kipchoge is the king of Berlin once again. On a gorgeous Sunday morning in the German capital, Kipchoge broke a tie with the great Haile Gebrselassie by winning his record fifth Berlin Marathon title in 2:02:42, holding off marathon debutants Vincent Kipkemoi (2:03:13) and Tadese Takele (2:03:24) over the final miles. The victory marked a return to form for Kipchoge, who turns 39 in November, after he finished a disappointing 6th at the Boston Marathon in April.

The new queen of Berlin is Ethiopia’s Tigst Assefa, who ran a stunning 2:11:53 world record which gets its own article: LRC Tigst Assefa Obliterates Women’s Marathon World Record with 2:11:53 in Berlin.

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Kipchoge’s win on Sunday adds yet another line to an unparalleled marathon resume. Kipchoge now has 16 wins from 19 marathon starts (a win percentage of 84%) and has won a staggering 11 World Marathon Majors, plus two Olympic gold medals. Kipchoge also now owns five of the eight fastest marathons in history. The average of his five fastest marathons is 2:02:09, a time bettered by just two other men in any single race.

The eight fastest marathons in history

Time Runner Race
2:01:09 Eliud Kipchoge 2022 Berlin
2:01:25 Kelvin Kiptum 2023 London
2:01:39 Eliud Kipchoge 2018 Berlin
2:01:41 Kenenisa Bekele 2019 Berlin
2:01:53 Kelvin Kiptum 2022 Valencia
2:02:37 Eliud Kipchoge 2019 London
2:02:40 Eliud Kipchoge 2022 Tokyo
2:02:42 Eliud Kipchoge 2023 Berlin

Conditions were good for running fast on Sunday (57 degrees, partly cloudy, 6 mph wind at the start) and Kipchoge got out quickly, splitting 14:12 for the first 5k — two seconds faster than last year, when he went on to set the world record of 2:01:09. Kipchoge had dropped everyone by that point, save for his three pacers and Ethiopian Derseh Kindie — who may have been serving as an unofficial fourth pacer, considering he was wearing the kit of Kipchoge’s NN Running Team, his marathon pb is just 2:08, and he dropped out of the race at 32k, right after the final official pacer stepped off.

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Kevin Morris photo

Kipchoge hit halfway in 60:22 — the second-fastest opening half ever, behind only his incredible 59:51 from 2022 — but the world record bid would fizzle out as he would run progressively slower over the second half. After averaging 14:18 for the first half, Kipchoge split 14:35 from 20k to 25k, 14:37 from 25k to 30k, 14:45 from 30k to 35k, and 14:56 from 35k to 40k. By that point, Kipchoge’s lead, which had stood as large as 1:17 at 30k, was down to just 31 seconds, but it would grow no smaller as Kipchoge was never seriously challenged en route to victory.

Kenya’s Vincent Kipkemoi, who has a 59:09 pb from the 2022 Copenhagen Half, and Ethiopia’s Tadese Takele (59:41 pb from the 2022 adidas Road to Records event) impressed in their marathon debuts by taking 2nd (2:03:13) and 3rd (2:03:24) while 2022 London Marathon champion Amos Kipruto was 7th in 2:04:49. In all, nine men broke 2:05 including the Amanal Petros, who broke his own German record by running 2:04:58.

There was one world record in the men’s race: 41-year-old Tadesse Abraham of Switzerland ran 2:05:10 to break Kenenisa Bekele‘s master’s world record of 2:05:53 set in London last year. Abraham’s time was a personal best and a 78-second improvement on his own Swiss record.

Americans still looking for Olympic standard

A number of American men were hoping to run fast in Berlin on Sunday, but the number of Americans with the 2:08:10 Olympic standard is the same as it was before the race: zero. Scott Fauble, who felt good about his chances before the race, was on pace through halfway at 63:46 but began having stomach problems before 30k, causing him to vomit, according to his agent Josh Cox. Fauble covered the 5k split between 25k and 30k in 22:20 and wound up dropping out.

Teshome Mekonen was the other American with a shot at the standard, but he went for much more. He went out very aggressively, passing halfway in 62:24 — on pace to break Khalid Khannouchi‘s American record of 2:05:38. But Mekonen would fade badly over the second half, and while he still ran a pb of 2:10:16 to finish as top American, the standard would elude him.

Jared Ward, who spent the second half of the race running with Tigist Assefa en route to her world record, was the second American in 2:11:44, finishing 27th and more importantly missing the minimum 2:11:30 standard you need to possibly make the men’s Olympics. 2021 Olympian Jake Riley, in his first marathon since undergoing double Achilles surgery last year, finished 54th in 2:18:18.

Quick Take: Kipchoge returns to winning ways, but might he be declining at last?

Today was a good day for Eliud Kipchoge. He returned to one of his favorite courses to earn his fifth victory in Berlin. Today’s win almost certainly means Kipchoge will be at the Olympics next year — even if he bombs his spring marathon, Kipchoge’s career accomplishments plus this fast win in Berlin should be enough for Athletics Kenya to name him to the team. It was also proof that Kipchoge is most certainly not “done” — which a few people were wondering after his defeat in Boston.

But today’s win suggested that Kipchoge just might be slowing down after an incredible run at the top of the sport. Yes, Kipchoge still ran 2:02:42 — a time that only two other men have ever run. But Kipchoge went out slower than he did in this race a year ago (60:22 vs 59:51 at halfway) and closed slower (61:18 for his second half last year vs 62:20 today). And conditions were great for running fast — a woman ran 2:11 today. The field was actually gaining on Kipchoge late in the race, and while he still won comfortably, this was not the usual powerful march to victory. Kipchoge was running 2:06 pace from 35k to the finish. He was holding on.

This is nitpkicking — the dude just ran the eighth-fastest marathon in history, and it’s unfair to expect Kipchoge to break the world record every time out. But the conditions were right for Kipchoge to run a very fast time and the fact that it did not materialize suggests that he’s not quite as good as he was at this time a year ago.

Quick Take: Not a good day for the Americans

The fact that the US still has zero men qualified for the 2024 Olympics is not a great sign. Things can change in the next five months — there is still the Chicago Marathon in two weeks and some Americans may be able to qualify via world ranking. But Berlin featured two top Americans going for the Olympic standard of 2:08:10 and neither of them could do it.

Fauble had a day to forget in Berlin (Kevin Morris photo)

Scott Fauble’s DNF was the result of bad luck. Though he went out very quickly by his standards, 30:04 through 10k (2:06:51 pace), Fauble backed off the pace after that and hit halfway at 63:46. That’s exactly the kind of split you’d want to see from Fauble but then he got hit with major stomach issues and had to drop out. Not much you can do in that situation.

Teshome Mekonen is the man who may be kicking himself after this one. Rather than go out more conservatively, Mekonen, who entered with a pb of 2:11:05, ran his first half in 62:24. That’s 2:04:48 pace, almost a minute faster than the 2:05:38  American record. Predictably, Mekonen could not hold it and ran his second half in 67:52 for an overall time of 2:10:16. Would Mekonen have run sub-2:08:10 if he had gone out more conservatively? Maybe. But he would have had a better shot if he went out in 63:30 or 64:00.

There are times to really send it and go for broke, but given where we are in the Olympic qualifying cycle, Mekonen’s goal today should have been to run the standard by any means necessary. This was a missed opportunity.

The good news for Mekonen is there are very few Americans who can run 2:10 off of a 62:24 first half. The odds of him finishing top three at the Olympic Trials in February got a big boost.

It’s hard to say exactly where Americans stand in terms of Olympic qualifying right now because the qualifying system is complicated and there are a lot of moving pieces. The US could still have three men in the top 65 of the filtered Road to Paris list by the end of January (If we had to guess, Fauble will fall down to #61, Conner Mantz is #45 and Zach Panning is #56 in the marathon rankings if you limit the marathon world rankings to 3 per country — but that’s not the same as the Road to Paris list which includes some others with time qualifiers) and if that’s the case the top 3 at the Trials will go to the Olympics as long as they’ve broken 2:11:30. But the American Olympic contenders hoping that Mekonen or Fauble would unlock an Olympic spot by hitting the time will have to wait until the next batch of Americans take their shot in Chicago two weeks from now.

MB: American men bombed, are we not going to send 3 to the Olympics?

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