Unless you’ve been living under a rock over the last few days, you know that Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge ran 2:00:25 in Nike’s Breaking2 attempt to break the two-hour barrier for 26.2 miles. While he may not have accomplished the sportswear giant’s main objective, he established hope that we may be closer that we thought to seeing that mark broken in our lifetime.
Kipchoge has perfectly executed the plan that he devised with his coach Patrick Sang to spend 10 years focused on the track and the next 10 on the roads. He finished his career on the oval with personal bests of 3:33.20 for the 1,500m, 12:46:53 for 5K and 26:49.02 for 10K. His new marathon personal best breaks some calculators as to what he could run now on the track.
This got the Citius Mag staff thinking, where does this rank among Kipchoge’s other great performances in his storied career. We each made the case for our favorite.
Paul Snyder: 2003 World Championship 5,000-meter gold medal over El Guerrouj and Bekele
An 18 year old Eliud Kipchoge outkicks the 1,500-meter world record-holder, and the 10,000-meter world champion, running 12:52.79 with a 53 second final lap. Watch this:
It’s beautiful; the final 100-meter duel between Kipchoge and El Guerrouj exemplifies just how fiercely competitive Kipchoge is, and hints at the mental toughness that will eventually make him the world’s greatest marathoner.
This was hardly Kipchoge’s best event, but he took out two of the all-time greats at the distance while a teenager. In the context of his eventual dominance over much longer distances–revealing he was probably a little over his head at the shorter stuff–I think that makes this Kipchoge’s most impressive performance ever, and one that truly announced his arrival as a world-beater, a title he continues to hold.
Scott Olberding: 2013 Berlin Marathon 2nd Place Finish to Wilson Kipsang’s 2:03:23 World Record
Did you know that Eliud has broken thirteen minutes in the 5,000m sixteen different times? Do you know the only two runners that have run more races under that barrier? It’s Bekele (21 times and Gebrselassie (18 times). ALSO, he has a lifetime marathon record of 7-1, meaning he has only lost one ever (Berlin, 2013, 2nd place). All of his marathons have been under 2:09. If you remove the Olympic marathon this past year in 2016, his average finish time for the remaining seven marathons is 2:04:22. That. Is. Incredible. The point of all this is that his breadth of work is incredible. He just does not miss.
If I have to pick one race, I’ll go with an unconventional one – his second place finish at the Berlin Marathon to Wilson Kipsang in 2013, where Wilson set the at-the-time world record of 2:03:23. Kipchoge improved his PB from 2:05:30 to 2:04:05, which truly announced his arrival as a marathon great. This was the fifth fastest time ever over the marathon, and only his second attempt at the distance. He hung on Kipsang’s shoulder through 30K, where they were on pace to run 2:03:45.
Chris Chavez: 2015 Berlin Marathon. Wins in 2:03:05 with the insoles of his shoes falling out
I think I could’ve made the case for the 59:44 half-marathon that he ran in the heavily-polluted Indian air last November but we’ll stay in Berlin for one of my favorites. It’s truly remarkable that in Kipchoge’s career, he’s never suffered any major injuries. The marathon is one of the wackiest race distances because you want everything to go right. You need to take your fluids at the right time. You need to wear certain things. When it doesn’t, you have to adjust on the fly. Eliud Kipchoge kind of didn’t and still ran the third-fastest time in history.
Kipchoge returned to Berlin in 2015 and coming off his victory in London in April, he was a contender for the world record. Wearing a very early prototype to what eventually would become the Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4%, he clocked a 2:03:05 but most of the race was run with the insoles of his shoes coming out.
It’s one of those races, where we’re left wondering how much faster he could’ve gone with proper footwear that didn’t fall apart. 63 seconds behind the world record blistered and bloodied from bad shoes is truly remarkable.
I think this race also cemented him as a clear favorite for gold in Rio de Janeiro. A little rain in Brazil wasn’t going to stop him from adding another medal to his collection.
Ryan Sterner: 2004 Golden Gala 5,000m – number 4 all time
Since we’re all on opposite ends of the country, it’s hard to scoff in your colleague’s face when they say something scoffworthy. To Paul’s claim of the 5,000m “hardly being Kipchoge’s best event,” I say PHOOEY.
Back in 2004, Kipchoge, not yet 20-years old, found himself in Rome for what was then known as the IAAF Golden League Golden Gala to run the 5,000m–the league has since gone on to achieve certified Diamond league status (hello, dad!). He carried with him a 5,000m personal best of Paul’s previously stated 12:52.79 from 2003’s World Championships. The race didn’t have household names that this generation of casual fans would recognize. Which makes it all the more impressive that Kipchoge won the whole dang thing running 12:46.53, dragging four others under the 13 minute mark.
His time was good enough for no.4 all time back in 2004, and it’s still no.4 all time today. Buddy, I think running sub 12:50, being no. 4 all time only behind Bekele, Haile, and Sir Daniel Komen, and having four championship medals at the distance certainly qualifies you at being one of the all time greats.
But thinking about it now, in the wake of watching Kipchoge The Great run 2:00:25, his marathoning is far more impressive than his track record. The world record in the 5,000m is many years out of his grasp, but he’d have to run 1.19% faster if he wanted to equal Bekele’s time. The doesn’t sound like a lot, but one day I’ll have Scott make a graph explaining that it’s actually a ton.
With the marathon however, he only has to run .1% faster to close the 8-second gap that Dennis Kimetto has on him (on a record eligible course). In a marathon, this could realistically be the difference between whether or not you were able to grab your drink from the table as efficiently as possible.
Anyway. We’ll call this one a draw.
Stephen Kersh: 2017 Breaking2 Post-Race Emcee Session
Without question, the best performance of Eliud D.J. Emtron Kipchoge’s career was his post-Breaking2 Deep House set. Once again, he did not break two; rather he manned the ones and twos for a six-hour marathon session of Jimpster, Solomun, and Larry Heard. Mixing them all up in what Zerensay Tedese claimed to be “cosmically enchanting.” Kipchoge does not exist in this world, and his transcendence was on true display last weekend.