The morning after winning the BMW Berlin Marathon for the second time in three years, Eliud Kipchoge was in a reflective mood as he offered an assessment of the race's 44th edition.
“Planning to run a marathon is like life, anything can happen," Kipchoge said. "You can run fast today and tomorrow you run slow.”
Just about everything did happen at the IAAF Gold Label Road Race on Sunday but hardly in the way most fans of the sport would have expected. His two main rivals, Kenenisa Bekele and Wilson Kipsang, failed to finish. Kipchoge himself was challenged and even overtaken, albeit briefly, in the closing stages by Ethiopia’s marathon debutant Guye Adola, who then finished as the second fastest of all time in his country’s rankings. All would have required crystal ball gazing of the highest order.
Through every twist and turn of the race, one constant factor was Kipchoge's remorseless progress. No matter the wet conditions which put paid to hopes of a world record, the Kenyan switched his mission target to concentrate on adding to the title won here in 2015. Time and again, whether it has been in winning the Olympic title in Rio last year or capturing the top prize in London, Berlin, Chicago and Hamburg, he has displayed a strength of will which is distinctive.
In retrospect he believes the experience of going so close to breaking two hours for the marathon distance on Monza’s Formula 1 circuit in early May has strengthened him both mentally and physically. He believes that process will boost future efforts to make marathon history.
“It gave me a lot of strength mentally, especially when I crossed the finish line and looked up and saw the clock showing two hours and 25 seconds and I knew I was running against the unthinkable.”
The topic of when or if the two-hour barrier for the marathon can be broken has been hotly debated. What was clear as he relaxed on a hotel sofa before leaving Berlin –-even a marathon great will have a touch of stiffness in the legs the day after running a world leading 2:03:32-– was that Kipchoge continues to believe that he can break the current world record of 2:02:57, set by his fellow Kenyan Dennis Kimetto in Berlin in 2014.
A return to the German capital --the race is scheduled for 16 September next year-- for a third attempt is very much part of his plans. “Absolutely, I would like to come back and try for the world record next time. I had come here to break the world record but the weather changed my plans.”
It's likely that next year, without a global marathon championship, the pursuit of the world record will intensify.
Whether he's being primed to challenge both clock and rivals in a big city marathon or aim for championship titles beyond 2018, Kipchoge clearly believes he will remain a marathon force for some time to come.
“Absolutely, I have still good marathons in my legs, there’s no doubt about that.”
Organisers for the IAAF