Eliud Kipchoge, arguably the greatest marathoner of all time, did it! This morning in Vienna Austria, he ran a marathon in 1:59:40. Not the world record because this was not a record eligible event but an astounding performance regardless.
Before I go any further, I want to say this was an amazing run by an amazing runner. Kipchoge is a great runner and, by all reports, a great person. This run was astounding. Even if it doesn’t count as a record, who could have imagined 10 or even 5 years ago that this kind of run was even possible? Kipchoge just did the impossible.
I also want to point out that this event gained a lot of interest inside and outside the running world. Any interest in a positive light is good, right? When people who don’t follow running are asking me about the sport for something that doesn’t involve drugs or other questionable or downright bad behavior, I consider that a good thing. Maybe the sport would benefit from more of these exhibition events?
That said, I’m still a little disappointed that this event happened. Why? Because we missed a chance to see Kipchoge in his prime running head to head against Kenenisa Bekele in his prime, when both were healthy and ready for big things.
Bekele just ran 2:01:41 in the Berlin Marathon, just missing Kipchoge’s world record of 2:01:39 from last year’s Berlin Marathon. Imagine the race that could have been had Kipchoge, obviously primed and ready to go as he proved this morning, would have been in that race.
I don’t for one moment blame Kipchoge for running this event instead of Berlin. It’s a different challenge. It’s the opportunity to become the first person to break 2 hours in a marathon, record eligible or not. It’s a different challenge (finishing first every year in London and Berlin shouldn’t be getting boring but I suspect there’s a little “been there, done that” feeling to it for him by now). I have no doubt he was well compensated for this effort (even for Kipchoge, an elite runner’s career is relatively short and you need to make your money while you can).
However, to me, time trials are not exciting. I didn’t watch the event because I didn’t find the interest in watching a single runner with a rotating group of pacers on an optimized course run a consistent pace for 2 hours, no matter how fast it was. I might have lost a little sleep to see a Kipchoge/Bekele showdown in Berlin.
Hopefully we will see that Kipchoge/Bekele matchup in Tokyo next year. Hopefully both will be healthy and fit when they arrive there. Given Bekele’s recent history, though, I’m concerned that we may have just missed our best chance to see this matchup with both healthy and running well.
Again, I want to congratulate Kipchoge on the great run and I’m in no way going to blame him for doing this event. However, in the back of my mind, I’ll always question whether we missed one of the all time great races in order to have this event.