Berlin Takeaways: Eliud Kipchoge Smashes The Marathon World Record, Tigist Assefa Shocks

By Chris Chavez

September 26, 2022

Eliud Kipchoge made history once again on the streets of the German capital by taking 30 seconds off his world record and winning the Berlin Marathon in 2:01:09. This was his fourth victory on the course.

On the women’s side, Ethiopia’s Tigist Assefa took many by surprise by lowering her personal best by 18 minutes and 24 seconds to win in 2:15:37, which is also the third-fastest time in history. She took nearly three minutes off the previous course record of 2:18:11 set by Kenya’s Gladys Cherono in 2018.

Here are some quick parting thoughts from the 2022 Berlin Marathon…

– There was no doubt before this race that Kipchoge is the greatest marathoner in history. His world record from 2018 got a scare from Kenenisa Bekele a year later when the Ethiopian star came three seconds shy of bumping Kipchoge off the top of the all-time list, but even with that near-miss, his GOAT status largely went unquestioned. Well, for any remaining skeptics, this time now puts Kipchoge 32 seconds ahead of anyone else. It’s a record I think will stand for some time. So this puts us in an interesting spot as to what comes next for the GOAT…

Kipchoge broke two hours under optimized conditions at the INEOS 1:59 Challenge in Vienna in October 2019. However, due to several factors including the rotating cast of pacers and mobile fueling strategy, the time is not recognized by World Athletics as the world record. Kipchoge is now 70 seconds away from a legal sub-two. I’m curious if he’s interested in pursuing that in London next spring, where he’s already run and won four times, to try and inch closer there. On the Berlin broadcast, he did say there was “still more” in his legs.

NYRR professional athletes director Sam Grotewold tweeted: “Anybody who thinks it’s a foregone conclusion that @EliudKipchoge runs Boston and NYC next year doesn’t know @EliudKipchoge.”

London Marathon race organizers have had no problem luring him to the British capital with a hefty appearance fee. And ultimately, it remains to be seen just how serious Kipchoge is about trying to win all six World Marathon Majors before his career is up. He clearly loves to see just how fast he can go and neither American Major course is particularly conducive to that.

But if that eventually becomes a priority, he’s untouchable right now, so maybe he thinks he can win Boston in two or three years, even if he’s at that point a little bit outside of his increasingly lengthy prime. American fans have had Kipchoge running Boston in the spring and New York in the fall on their wish lists for a while. If/when it happens, it’ll surely be worth the wait.

– That’s 15 victories in 17 marathons for Kipchoge’s career. The list of answers for the trivia question “name one man who beat Eliud Kipchoge in the marathon?” is just eight entries long: Wilson Kipsang (Berlin 2013); Shura Kitata (London 2020); Vincent Torotich (London 2020); Sisay Lemma (London 2020); Mosinet Geremew (London 2020); Mule Wasihun (London 2020); Tamirat Tola (London 2020) and Benson Kipruto (London 2020)

It’s funny because I remember speaking to Kipsang ahead of his race against Kipchoge and Bekele at the 2017 Berlin Marathon and there was still an ongoing debate as to who was the best marathoner in the world. Kipchoge was coming off the Breaking2 project with Nike, where he ran 2:00:25. Kipsang had broken 2:05:00 on eight occasions in his career and he believed that consistency was probably enough to put him ahead of Kipchoge in the GOAT debate. Now, Kipchoge’s gone under 2:05:00 14 times in his career, including the two sub-two-hour marathon attempts. No debate – especially since Kipsang was later banned for four years for four whereabouts failures between April 2018 and May 2019.

– Age is just a number. I’m not just writing that because my birthday is on Friday and I’ll be heading into the final year of my 20s. Kipchoge and Keira D’Amato have redefined what we think is possible in our late 30s and eliminated any mental barriers we set on ourselves. Kipchoge will turn 38 on Nov. 5. The 2023 edition of the New York City Marathon will fall on his 39th birthday. No better way to celebrate than in the best city in the world, I say!

– Please enjoy this video of Claus Henning-Schulke absolutely CRUSHING his duties as Kipchoge’s personal bottle guy. He is now 2-for-2 in helping fuel Kipchoge to the marathon world record. I actually had him on the CITIUS MAG Podcast for a mini-episode in 2018 and I hung out with him in Berlin before I raced in 2019. Super nice guy.

– Once again, the pacing situation wasn’t quite perfect, and nor were the conditions — while far from a scorcher, it was probably 5-10º or so warmer than you’d like if you were to design your ideal world record-setting environment in a lab. At this level, every tiny thing matters! Kipchoge proved he’s on another level by doing much of the work solo after 25K.

Kipchoge’s official splits:

5K – 00:14:14 😤

10K – 00:28:22 😮

HALF – 00:59:50 🤯

30K – 01:25:40 😲

40K – 01:54:53 😦


– Ethiopia’s Andamlak Belihu was brave enough to try and hang with Kipchoge and hit the halfway mark in 59:51 but finished fourth in 2:06:40. Probably a very painful second half.

– Ethiopia’s Tigist Assefa was a MAJOR surprise in the women’s race with a 2:15:37 victory, which is now the third-fastest time in history. She entered with a 2:34.01 personal best from her marathon debut in Saudi Arabia in March, when she finished 7th at the Riyadh Marathon. Back in April, she ran her half marathon personal best of 1:07:28, which is slower than her 1:07:25 split in the second half of the Berlin Marathon.

It appears that Assefa has focused on the roads for at least the past five years but never did anything spectacular. I can’t find results for any race in 2020 or 2021 so she wasn’t in the conversation around Ethiopia’s Olympic team selection for Tokyo. She competed for them in the 2016 Olympics in the 800m. Her personal best is 1:59.24 from the 2014 Lausanne Diamond League, where she finished third behind 2013 world champion Eunice Sum and Russian doper Ekaterina Poistogova. There are no races longer than 800m on the track on her resume. As noted by Jon Mulkeen on Twitter, she is the first woman in history to go under 2:00 for 800m and 2:18:00 for the marathon.

– Assefa only trails Brigid Kosgei’s 2:14:04 world record and Paula Radcliffe’s 2:15:25 (former world record from 2003 to 2019) on the all-time list. She smashed the Ethiopian record of 2:17:23 set in April in Hamburg by Yalemzerf Yehualaw. That national record could trade hands once more this year as half marathon world record holder Letesenbet Gidey is set to make her marathon debut in December in Valencia, Spain.

– I’ll be curious to see how Assefa follows up this superb performance. Of all the women who have broken 2:18, most of them have only done it once and then either contested tougher courses on the World Major circuit or never ran faster. The exciting part is that Assefa joins a class of marathoners that are only getting faster. Peres Jepchirchir, Joyciline Jepkosgei, Degitu Azimeraw, Ashete Bekere and Yehualaw are in their prime.

We’ll see Yehualaw and Jepkosgei go head-to-head this weekend in London. On Monday afternoon, race organizers announced Kosgei has withdrawn from Sunday’s race due to a hamstring injury.

– Kenya’s Rosemary Wanjiru came so close to joining the sub-2:18 club (which consists of just 13 women in history) by finishing second in 2:18:00 for her marathon debut. Consider her in that aforementioned class of active marathoners who are crushing it.

– D’Amato, who entered Sunday’s race with the fastest personal best on paper, ended up finishing sixth overall in 2:21:48. She let the lead pack of women go ahead of her to focus on running her own race and hit the half marathon mark in 1:09:27 – which was more than a minute back of Assefa and the other East Africans. She fell off her own American record pace but then managed to close hard enough to move up a few places in the last two kilometers. She told David Monti of Race Results Weekly that she “briefly stopped and walked late in the race.” You can see all of her Strava data from the race here.

– Congratulations to Deena Kastor, who earned her sixth star and completed the World Marathon Majors. She finished in 2:45:12, good for 48th overall among all women.

– One last thing…Back in 2015, Malcolm Gladwell brought up the “Kipsang Number” for how long you’d be able to keep up with Wilson Kipsang while running the marathon.

He wrote: “The average, healthy, athletic, American, twenty-two-year old varsity athlete in a sport other than track probably has a Kipsang number of between 400 and 800 meters. To recap: you could keep up with him for a quarter of a mile, then you would collapse in exhaustion. He would keep running at the same pace for another twenty-six miles.”

So an updated concept would be The Kipchoge Number. How long would you make it alongside Kipchoge with these paces?

400 meters – 68.90s

800 meters – 2:17.82

1000 meters – 2:52.27

Mile – 4:37.19

2 Miles – 9:14.48

5K – 14:21.36

10K – 28:42.71

Half Marathon – 60:34.50

I’ll stop there but if you’re a subscriber with a sub-60 PB, let me know and I can give you Kipchoge Numbers for another couple of kilometers past that… And regardless of your half marathoning prowess, email me back with your Kipchoge number! I think mine would be 500 meters if I spiked up.

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Chris Chavez

Chris Chavez launched CITIUS MAG in 2016 as a passion project while working full-time for Sports Illustrated. He covered the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and grew his humble blog into a multi-pronged media company. He completed all six World Marathon Majors and is an aspiring sub-five-minute miler.