Why Eliud Kipchoge's World Record is Under Threat After Kelvin Kiptum's Heroics in London

Why Eliud Kipchoge's World Record is Under Threat After Kelvin Kiptum's Heroics in London

Martin Moses
updated at October 8, 2023 at 2:54 PM
  • Eliud Kipchoge has proven himself time and again as the greatest marathoner in history
  • Kipchoge is the only man to have run a marathon in under 2 hours in special conditions and also holds the world record
  • However, there is a new kid on the block whose early signs show that he is about to rival Kipchoge's throne

It actually feels treasonous to be writing this. That anyone could be sane enough to question Eliud Kipchoge's records after all he has done since he made his debut in Hamburg in 2013 is crazy.

Kipchoge has consistently taken to road running with such grace, grit and humility, etching his name as the greatest to ever do it. Even when hit with setbacks, like in October 2020 in London, he bounced back and shattered his own world record in Berlin by almost 30 seconds.

Eliud Kipchoge, Berlin Marathon, London Marathon, Marathon World Record
Eliud Kipchoge celebrates after setting a new world record on September 25 at the Berlin Marathon. Photo by Marvin Ibo Guengoer - GES Sportfoto.
Source: Getty Images

Despite his failure to win the Boston Marathon a week ago, he remains a strong favourite to win the Paris Olympics next year and become the first person to win three consecutive Olympic Gold medals.

However, if the 2023 London Marathon is anything to go by, then Kipchoge's world record of 2:01:09 might be under threat sooner than we expected.

As reported by Sports Brief, Kelvin Kiptum blitzed through an experienced field on April 23 to win the London Marathon at 2:01:26, which is just 18 seconds more than Kipchoge's world record.

Kiptum's marathon records

Here is the crazy part; this was only Kiptum's second marathon. His first marathon was in Valencia last year, where he set the fastest time for a debutant after he clocked 2:01:53.

At that time, it was the third fastest time ever in a marathon, just behind Kipchoge and Kenenisa Bekele's 2:01'41 that he set in Berlin in 2019. But after his new time in London, he now has the second-fastest time in history.

Kiptum is only 23 years old, mind you.

In winning the London marathon, Kiptum also shattered Kipchoge's course record of 2:02;37 that he set in 2019 as well. Just when we thought that his time of 60:15 in the second half of the Valencia marathon was insane enough, Kiptum used 59:45 in London to set the fastest time ever used in the second half of a marathon.

Eliud Kipchoge, Berlin Marathon, London Marathon, Marathon World Record
Kelvin Kiptum of Kenya crosses the finish line to win the Elite Men's Marathon during the 2023 TCS London Marathon on April 23, 2023 in London, England. Photo by Alex Davidson.
Source: Getty Images

Not even Kipchoge has hit those heights. Kipchoge's best is 59:51, which he clocked in the first half of the 2022 Berlin Marathon.

On Sunday, Kiptum made his move at the 30K mark and left the rest of the field that included Geoffrey Kamworor, Kenenisa Bekele and world champion Tamirat Tola. From 30K to 35K, he used an amazing 13:49, vanquishing any hopes for the rest of the competitors.

At one point, many thought that Kipchoge's record was under threat.

Why many marathon records are broken in Berlin

Kiptum's major introduction to the marathon world sets up an interesting prospect, especially with the Berlin Marathon this year up for grabs. The Berlin Marathon has proven to be a positive hunting ground for world records, with 12 world records (men and women) having been set in the German capital, including Kipchoge's.

Methinks that should Kiptum bring the same pace and strategy to Germany later this year, Kipchoge's record will be under serious threat. Berlin is favourable for world records due to its flat course with fewer corners, unlike in London, where athletes have to battle with head wind along the River Thames past Embankment.

The thinking here would be, if Kiptum overcame the challenges of the London course to shatter Kipchoge's record, the script might be the same in Berlin. Even more interesting, the subtle raindrops in London on April 23 might have affected the athletes' pace.

But first, as BBC Sports' Michelle Katami reports, he will have to face the conundrum of running for Kenya at the World Athletics Championships or focusing on the Berlin Marathon if presented with such an opportunity. The Championships come in August, with Berlin following a month later and thus, it would be difficult to run both races.

After his London heroics, Kiptum taking over from Kipchoge seems to be a matter of when, not if, provided he remains injury free. His is sheer talent and power at such a young age - more like Samuel Wanjiru's, who unfortunately never had the opportunity to live up to his potential.

But until that happens, let's get something straight, Eliud Kipchoge remains the greatest to ever do it.

Martin Moses photo
Martin Moses
Martin Moses is a sports journalist with over five years of experience in media. He graduated from Multimedia University of Kenya (Bachelor of Journalism, 2017-2021)
Eliud KipchogeKenya