Kipchoge aims to create more history when he makes his Boston Marathon debut

Kipchoge aims to create more history when he makes his Boston Marathon debut
Eliud Kipchoge proudly displays the Kenyan flag after winning the 2022 Berlin-Marathon. (Photo: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)

Kenyan double Olympic gold medallist Eliud Kipchoge is aiming to add the Boston Marathon title to his growing collection on debut this weekend.

With world sporting calendars crammed full as they are most weekends, it’s easy to miss some important events.

And for the running fraternity in South Africa, most eyes will be on the Two Oceans Marathon in Cape Town, one of the highlights of the local calendar and an event with global recognition.

Gerda Steyn’s attempt to win a fourth Two Oceans is a compelling narrative in its own right and an event well worth focusing on.

But further afield, in Boston on Sunday, a big piece of history will be made. Eliud Kipchoge, the greatest marathon runner of all time, will compete at the Boston Marathon for the first time. That in itself is historic, but winning would give the 38-year-old the fifth leg of an elusive sextet of wins.

Boston forms part of the six World Marathon Majors — the others being Berlin, Tokyo, London, New York, and Chicago — and one of only two Kipchoge hasn’t won. The reason he hasn’t won Boston and New York is because he’s never run them.

That could change this weekend when the fastest man ever over 42.2km attempts Boston for the first time.

Boston Marathon

Runners make their way down Boylston street to the finish line during the 126th Boston Marathon on April 18, 2022. (Photo: Omar Rawlings/Getty Images)

It’s a seismic day for running and one of the few remaining barriers that the great Kenyan has not broken — yet.

For Boston, widely considered the most prestigious marathon in the world, finally having Kipchoge in the field certainly enhances that claim.

Boston has been run since the 19th century — this is the 127th staging of the race — and it has seen it all for great and tragic reasons. The Boston Marathon bombing of 2013, which killed three people and injured scores of others, is its darkest moment. Seventeen people lost limbs that day.

Less is more

It’s unclear if those events have played a part in Kipchoge’s reluctance to race in Boston, but it’s more likely his parsimonious approach to racing.

He competes in two races a year, preferring to peak twice over a 12-month cycle. Less is certainly more for Kipchoge and it’s a policy that has brought great rewards.

Of the 17 competitive marathons he has raced in, he has won 15. He holds the official world record, set in last year’s Berlin Marathon in a time of 2:01:09.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Kipchoge’s marathon world record edges closer to breaking the two-hour mark 

And he is also the only man to run a sub-two-hour marathon, achieved with pacemakers and a specifically designed course in Vienna in 2019.

Kipchoge is modest to a fault and outwardly at least, the antithesis of an alpha male dominant sportsman, which of course he is. While discipline, obsessive training, sacrifice and superior genetics are essential ingredients to his success, it also requires a titanium mentality.

When he stands on the starting line, for the following 122-odd minutes, everyone around him is an enemy that needs to be crushed. He not only wants them behind him on course, but he wants to run times that eliminate any names other than “Kipchoge’ from the record books.

It’s no secret that Kipchoge wants to win all six Marathon Majors. And more than that, he wants to hold the course record at each of them. He has three course records in his four wins so far in London, Tokyo and Berlin and now Boston is in his sights. An assault on the New York Marathon is set for 5 November. After that, he wants a third Olympic Marathon gold in Paris 2024.

Eliud Kipchoge, Berlin Marathon, Boston Marathon

Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge celebrates his marathon world record of 2:01:09 after winning the 2022 Berlin Marathon. (Photo: Marvin Ibo Guengoer – GES Sportfoto/Getty Images)

Nothing to chance

Kipchoge has left nothing to chance for his attempt to win in Boston and break Geoffrey Mutai’s course record of 2:03:02 set in 2011.

Along with training partners and world-class marathoners in his elite gaggle at their Kenyan training base in Kaptagat, they have tried as best as they can to replicate Boston’s undulating course.

 “This is the right time to train on the course which we have nicknamed ‘Boston’ here in Kenya. It’s an uphill and tough course over 40 kilometres,” Kipchoge told Kenya’s Daily Nation.

“I think I will benefit from it, this being my first time to put all my work on Boston Marathon because I always train on a ‘Boston’ course in Kaptagat. It’s an uphill and tough course over 40 kilometres.”

“Boston is uphill and needs a lot of patience, hard work to go through, hence unpredictable,” he said.

“Today can be windy but the weather might change completely tomorrow but I am trying to be all-weather man. If any challenge comes his way that morning, I will go with it.”

He’s not getting younger and there are always supremely talented athletes waiting to knock the old lion off his perch.

There are also not many chances to witness Kipchoge’s greatness left. Boston and New York in 2023 and Paris in 2024. That might be it for one of the greatest careers in athletics history.

We might only see a competitive Kipchoge for a little more than six hours in total over the next 18 months, so it’s best to sit back and enjoy him while we can. DM


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