The 23-year-old Kenyan shatters Eliud Kipchoge’s world record with 2:00:35, while Sifan Hassan also wins at the Chicago Marathon
Yes, 2:00:35 isn’t a typo.
The prospect of a sub-2:01 marathon seemed scarcely believable, even with the dominance of Eliud Kipchoge over the last decade.
The double Olympic marathon champion had moved the world record on from Dennis Kimetto’s 2:02:57 in 2014 to the 2:01:09 he recorded in Berlin last season.
A drop of one minute and 48 seconds over eight years.
If that progression felt like a quantum leap, then Kelvin Kiptum’s world record of 2:00:35 at the Chicago Marathon (October 8) equates to travelling at light speed.
There was expectation that Kiptum could get close to Kipchoge’s 2:01:09.
After all, Kiptum’s previous two marathons got the world’s attention. He became the fastest male marathon debutant in history after victory in Valencia back in December 2022.
Then, at the this year’s London Marathon, the 23-year-old set a course record of 2:01:25 and narrowly missed out on Kipchoge’s mark.
To get the world record, there was always a sense of needing to see it to believe it.
It’s not just that 2:01:09 is an insanely good time but that Kipchoge, who is aiming to be the first ever person to claim three Olympic marathon gold medals in Paris next year, was the one who set it.
The manner of how Kiptum demolished it, bettering the time by 36 seconds, proves that nothing is impossible and everything is on the table.
Like in London, Kiptum produced negative splits (60:48 and 59:47) to triumph on the streets of Chicago. That didn’t however mean he started off slowly.
The Kenyan went through 10km in a blistering 28:42 and by the half-way mark only compatriot Daniel Mateiko could stay with him.
To put that into perspective, Kiptum was on world record pace (2:01:05) even after 10km.
It was never likely however that Mateiko, who broke the UK and Irish all-comers’ half-marathon record back in August with 58:36, would stay with Kiptum in the latter stages.
The telling point of the race was when Kiptum produced a phenomenal 5km split of 13:51 between 30-35km. Mateiko fell away and subsequently dropped out of the race.
Kiptum powered on though and as he approached the finish line he blew a kiss to the crowd, waved his hands aloft and became inundated with emotion.
Even Kiptum couldn’t quite believe the magnitude of what he’d just done.
Not only did he run 2:00:35 but the Kenyan took apart a world class field and beat last year’s Chicago winner Benson Kipruto by three minutes and 27 seconds.
Such a victory has altered the perception of running a sub-two hour marathon.
Four years ago, Kipchoge clocked 1:59:40 over 26.2 miles during the INEOS 1:59 Challenge but that doesn’t count as an official world record as he had 42 rotating pacemakers, his coaches handed him water throughout the run and the race wasn’t set-up as a competition.
No human in history has run 26.2 miles in under two hours on a record-eligible course though.
Now, you cannot say it can’t happen. If Kiptum raced in Berlin – the course which has hosted more world records (13) than any other – then who knows?
With the Kenyan wearing Nike Dev 163 prototype shoes, Kiptum’s victory will also reignite the debate on how much a difference shoe technology makes, just a fortnight after Tigst Assefa wore a pair of the £400 Adizero Adios Pro Evo 1 on her way to a women’s world record of 2:11:53.
In the early stages of Chicago, Sifan Hassan had the potential to give that a scare but had to ‘settle’ for a European record of 2:13:44 in just her second ever marathon.
If Hassan’s impressive debut win in London was extraordinary – given she stopped twice and dodged a a bike in dramatic style – then backing it up in Chicago was something else.
And if it wasn’t for Assefa’s 2:11:53 at the Berlin Marathon then the Dutch athlete would be the world record-holder over 26.2 miles. After running only two marathons.
This is literally two months after claiming a world 5000m silver and 1500m bronze at the World Championships in Budapest.
Hassan has perhaps the greatest range of any female athlete in history. She’s run 1:56.81 over 800m and is now the European record-holder over 1500m, 3000m, 5000m, 10,000m, 5km, half-marathon and marathon.
The point of doing the marathon was to test the waters. This was the unknown. Hassan, in London, saw off Alemu Megertu and Peres Jepchirchir by less than six seconds and gave the impression she didn’t quite know how she won.
In Chicago, her persona was different. The innocent exuberance was still evident but you could tell that she’d learnt from London and it wasn’t a shock to see her trounce last year’s Chicago champion Ruth Chepng’etich by one minute and 53 seconds.
Both Kiptum and Hassan are relatively new to the marathon but the pair are beginning to re-define what’s possible in the distance.
Is this the new normal? More than likely.
More generally, six out of the fastest ten men’s times in history were recorded in the past two years. That number stands at eight in the women’s field.
There is the prospect that world records over 26.2 miles could be broken every year for the foreseeable future.
We’re in a new era and it doesn’t look likely it’s stopping anytime soon.
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