Athletics: 'Anything might happen' says Kenya’s Kipchoge before Berlin Marathon

AFP , Saturday 23 Sep 2023

Kenyan marathon world record-holder Eliud Kipchoge was confident on Friday he could overcome his recent form dip and challenge for his fifth Berlin Marathon crown.

Kenya's world record holder Eliud Kipchoge gestures as he addresses a press conference on September 22, 2023 in Berlin, during the presentation of the men's elite runners of the Berlin Marathon scheduled to take place on September 24, 2023. Photo: AFP


Kipchoge set a world record time of 2hr 01min 09sec in the German capital in 2022, beating his own previous mark by 30 seconds.

But the two-time Olympic gold medallist's sixth place at the Boston Marathon in April, where he fell back after leading over most of the course, had some questioning whether the 38-year-old's best days are behind him.

Speaking to the media in the German capital ahead of Sunday's race, Kipchoge said previous setbacks had taught him not to give up.

Kipchoge said he "learned a lot" from his 2022 win, "but you know last year is last year. It was 2022 and 2023 is a different game altogether".

"You're approaching it in a different way but you know when you are inside the race anything might happen.

"We follow what's in our hands actually inside the race."

Asked if he was feeling any pre-race nerves, the Kenyan said: "Absolutely I'm nervous. Your nervousness shows you are ready for the task."

Kipchoge's biggest rival is likely to be fellow Kenyan Amos Kipruto, who won the 2022 London Marathon.

Sitting alongside Kipchoge, Kipruto said he was competing with himself rather than his countryman.

"I will be competing for my personal best. The biggest target is to compete with my time," Kipruto said.

"If I go beyond that, I will be happy."

In the women's event, 2022 Berlin winner Tigist Assefa, 26, is the favourite.

Despite coming within 90 seconds of the world mark last year, the Ethiopian said: "I'm not thinking about the world record. I want to improve."

'Feels like home'

After arriving in the German capital on Wednesday, Kipchoge wrote on Instagram "it's good to be back in Berlin, it always feels like coming home."

"Only a few more days until the Berlin Marathon - I can't wait."

Asked on Friday for his favourite places along the marathon track, Kipchoge joked: "I remember (the point) where it was 400 metres to go -- that's what is in my mind."

Kipchoge has won 15 marathons, including four in both Berlin and London.

He won Berlin in 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2022 -- the latter two in world record times.

A win on Sunday and he would move past Ethiopian Haile Gebrselassie into outright first on the list of Berlin Marathon victories.

In 2022, Kipchoge ran the first half in less than an hour, which gave rise to hopes he may best the hallowed two-hour mark.

In the second half of the race he slowed slightly, but still finished with a world record time.

Twice he has run times better than his current world record, including once under two hours, becoming the only man to do so, but both did not court as they were not in an open competition, as per World Athletics rules.

Kipchoge has said he wants to use Berlin to prepare for the 2024 Paris Olympics and his bid for an unprecedented third Olympic gold medal in the marathon.

Some 45,000 runners are set to take part in Sunday's race, where conditions regularly produce fast times.

Berlin is a flat course with fewer corners than other major city marathons, with the city's asphalt streets easier on the joints than concrete.

Weather conditions are also conducive to faster times, with little wind in September, with temperatures between 10C to 16C.

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