With Tokyo 2021 win, Eliud Kipchoge now two-thirds towards major marathon goal

What is left for 38-year-old marathoning great Eliud Kipchoge to achieve? The two-time defending Olympic gold medalist could, after all, chase the elusive sub-two-hour world record mark (which he already, on paper, broke in 2019 but a technicality kept that out of the Guinness books). But in January, the Kenyan stated his wish to become the first man to win all six Abbott World Marathons Majors. Berlin, Chicago and London were already in the bag, so Kipchoge had his eyes set on Tokyo next.

Eliud Kipchoge, dressed in white, at the Tokyo Marathon 2021 on Mar. 6, 2022.
Eliud Kipchoge, dressed in white, at the Tokyo Marathon 2021 on Mar. 6, 2022. (photo by Yuan-Kwan Chan / Meniscus Magazine)

Kipchoge’s Tokyo 2020 Olympic triumph less than a year earlier actually took place in Sapporo. The race was relocated due to heat and humidity concerns, so this was an opportunity for Kipchoge to finally run in Japan’s capital. Had it not been for a mix-up in the race course that turned around the leaders at the 10-kilometer mark – which, some accounts noted, likely cost the runners up to 10 minutes – it was possible that spectators could have seen several athletes break the elusive two-hour mark. (There was also some confusion over what to actually call this marathon, as the 2021 edition had been canceled. Although it took place in 2022, organizers decided to keep the year 2021 in the race name.)

Instead, Kipchoge won his first Tokyo Marathon at 2:02:40 – still a course record, and the fastest marathon finish ever in Japan. Countryman Amos Kipruto came in second at 2:03:13, and Tamirat Tola of Ethiopia finished third at 2:04:14. Women’s champion and Tokyo 2020 silver medalist Brigid Kosgei clocked 02:16:02, also a course record.

Of the six World Marathon Majors, as of November 2022 Eliud Kipchoge has won Berlin (four times), London (four), Chicago (one) and Tokyo (one). New York and Boston are next in his sights. (photo by Yuan-Kwan Chan / Meniscus Magazine)

Following his victory, Kipchoge wrote on Facebook, “I am so proud to win in the streets of Tokyo, where the people have running in their heart and minds. After winning my second Olympic Gold medal in Japan last summer, I returned to Tokyo to run a strong race. And this is what I meant with a strong race, 2:02 victory and new course record. I’m proud to now have won 4 out of the 6 Abbott World Marathon Major races.” In September, he did break the world record in Berlin, inching closer to the sub-two-hour mark at 2:01:09.

Photos: Tokyo Marathon 2021 – Mar. 6, 2022
all photos by Yuan-Kwan Chan / Meniscus Magazine