Eliud Kipchoge battles Wilson Kipsang and wins the London Marathon
April 26, 2015
Eliud Kipchoge used his track speed to break the race open, just 650 meters from the finish of the 2015 Virgin Money London Marathon. Kipchoge, the 2003 World Champion at 5,000 meters, broke the former World record holder, Wilson Kipsang, and defending London champion, winning by five seconds. The current World Champion, Dennis Kimetto, was dropped about 24 miles when Kipsang and Kipchoge began the true racing. Kimetto finished third in 2:05.50.
London, England -- This men's race was a true battle of the Titans....
It all goes back to August 2003, when Eliud Kipchoge won his first title, taking on Kenenisa Bekele and Hicham El Guerrouj, and at the age of 18, defeated the two best middle and long distance track runners of his era. That race was part of the decade-plus-racing education of Eliud Kipchoge.
Eliud Kipchoge won the World Championships 5,000 meters in 2003, and played a big part in every major championship he competed in through 2011. He won other medals, but never returned to gold medal form. From 2011 until 2013, Eliud took the time to recover from his injuries but to move over unto the marathon.
The nature of racing in distance running requires time and nurturing. Eliud Kipchoge raced over 5,000 m, 10,000m and cross country. After 2011, he began to dabble in road racing. Kipchoge, in earlier interviews at Chicago, told me that, at first his training changes were quite frustrating. The long runs did not come easy to him. Neither did the longer intervals give him any satisfaction.
But, Kipchoge persevered. In his first marathon, in Hamburg, Germany he won in 2:05.30, nice debut. His second marathon was the 2013 BMW Berlin Marathon. In the end, it came down to Wilson Kipsang and Eliud Kipchoge. Kipsang broke the WR with his 2:03.23 and Eliud ran 2:04.05, best second place ever, at the time.
In April 2014, Eliud Kipchoge went to Rotterdam and added a second win in a fine 2:05.00, but it was not what he wanted. Eliud has learnt patience in his old age (30): he understands that a marathoner has to be patient, but also be able to strike quickly and with power.
In October 2014, Eliud Kipchoge faced off with Kenenisa Bekele in Bekele's second marathon. In a race that was supposed to crown Kenenisa as the next marathon great, Eliud Kipchoge used his speed to break Bekele around 35k and at 40k break his last two competitors, winning in 2:04.11. The big memory for me of Chicago was Eliud smiling starting at 35k and the smile got bigger and bigger.
After the race, when we asked about his smile, Eliud KIpchoge noted that he was happy the way the race went. I noted in my notebook that Kipchoge was quite happy breaking Bekele as early as he did.
I also wrote one other note: KIpchoge is the zen master of marathoning. It was from his comments on how long turning over to road training had taken him and now, how he liked it, but it had to grow on him.
The Virgin London Marathon was billed as a Clash of the Titans, with Kimetto versus Kipsang. And, it should have been. The former WR holder and current WR holder, with Kipsang having won twice in London, getting the ink in London.
There was only talk about how Kipsang and Kimetto could win in London," noted Kipchoge. First note: do not ever discount Eliud Kipchoge. And know that Mr. Kipchoge used that as motivation today.
The race started out fast and ended faster. A pack of fifteen went out, with two pacers and hit 14;32, 29:15, and 44:15. Eliud Kipchoge stayed right on the pace makers, with Wilson Kipsang floating around the pack. Dennis Kimetto looked a bit like a deer in the headlights: he just did not look comfortable. Stanley Biwott stayed out of trouble, in the mid pack, as Tilahun Regassa, Emmanuel Mutai, Geoffrey Mutai, Tsegaye Mekonnen, and Samuel Tsegay.
The pacemakers hit 1:02.20, and while the pace was 40 seconds slower than requested, the cold and wind were players here. Kipchoge and Kipsang were eyeing each other while Kimetto watched Kipsang. All this is going on as Regassa would run to front and drop back, and Emmanuel Mutai, Geoffrey Mutai, Tseagaye Mekonnen and Samuel Tsegay dropped off the pace with only Emmanule Mutai finishing in that group.
The 25k was hit in 1:14.03, as Samuel Kitwara kept the pace strong, and Kipchoge stayed near the front, with Kimetto in the middle and Kipsang continuing to float.
Wilson Kipsang is a marathon racer, his last time on the track was a decade ago. Dennis Kimetto is a road racer, with no pedigree on track or cross country. Twelve years of strength and speed development give Eliud Kipchoge some confidence in his ability to finish. It also showed Kipchoge how he could defeat Kipsang.
The pace slowed, as the pack hit 30k in 1:28.56, and six were there: Kimetto, Kipsang, Kipchoge, Biwott, Kitwara, and Regassa. 35 kilometers showed no difference, as the crew hit 35k in 1:44.02.
And this is when it got interesting. Eliud Kipchoge and Wilson Kipsang dropped a 4:33 for the 25th mile and off the back went Biwott, and then, KImetto.
and it was down to two...
For some time, Kipchoge and Kipsang stayed together, a short lead by Kipchoge was ended, and one wondered who could do what.
With six hundred and fifty meters to go, Eliud KIpchoge used that smooth stride and four minute mile speed and broke it open, building a five second lead over Wilson Kipsang.
The speed and the suddeness were shocking, as Wilson Kipsang was showed a bit of a lesson from the man he had defeated in Berlin in 2013. Eliud Kipchoge was going to break him and not leave anything to the last 200 meters.
Eliud Kipchoge charged away and won in 2:04.42, smiling for that last minute too the finish, winning in 2:04.42.
Wilson Kipsang, two time London champ, was relegated to second in 2:04.47 and Dennis Kimetto was third in 2:05.50.
In the end, the battle was always going to be between Kipchoge and Kipsang. The track and cross country developed racer and Kipsang, the marathon purist.
Both gave each other high praise, but mark my word, we will see several more marathon battles between these two!