Breaking Barriers in Berlin

Written by: Shannon Polk, Kudos Team Contributor

The Berlin Marathon began with a record field of 44,389 runners from 133 nations on a beautiful 60-degree day. In the men’s race, it was obvious both Eliud Kipchoge (KEN) and Wilson Kipsang (KEN) had their sights set on a world-record time, each beginning with three personal pace setters. However, Kipchoge’s pace was quicker than Kipsang’s, with Kipchoge aiming for 61:00 at the half and Kipsang shooting for 61:30. Kipchoge orchestrated the moves of his pace setters, motioning for them to get in front of him at points, and the gap between him and Kipsang grew as the race progressed.

Kipchoge lost two pacemakers before the halfway point – earlier than expected – making his pursuit for the world record more challenging. However, the remaining pacemarker, Josphat Boit, kept the blazing pace until 25K before dropping off. 

Unphased, Kipchoge increased his speed from a 2:56-per-kilometer pace at 25K to a 2:51 pace at 27K. He passed the 30K mark in 1:26:45, looking in control and poised to run sub 2:02:00. Although he missed his final water bottle after 40K, Kipchoge was ready to shatter the world record and showed no sign of slowing. In an unbelievable, joyous finish, he sprinted through the tape and clocked a new world record of 2:01:39, going 1:18 faster than the previous record set by Dennis Kimetto at the 2014 Berlin Marathon. Finishing second was Amos Kipruto (KEN) in 2:06:23, followed by Kipsang in 2:06:48.

For the elite women, Tirunesh Dibaba (ETH) led the race, although at a slower pace than anticipated. Dibaba passed the 10K mark in 32:44, putting her at a 2:18:20 pace, already slower than her personal best of 2:17:56. Behind Dibaba and keeping pace were Gladys Cherono (KEN) and Ruti Aga (ETH).

Dibaba came upon the halfway point at 69:03, where she had difficulty getting her water bottle, having to stop briefly. At the 25K mark, she lost the lead to Cherono and Aga. 

Cherono passed 30K in 1:38:04, followed by Ruti, Edna Kiplagat (KEN) and Dibaba. Unlike the men’s race, it wasn’t clear who would take home the women’s trophy at this point.

Although the world record wouldn’t be broken, the course record was within reach for Cherono who began to put distance between herself and Aga as she closed in on the finish line. Setting a course record and new world-leading time, Cherono finished first in 2:18:11, followed by Aga in 2:18:34 and Dibaba in 2:18:55. It was a historic result, marking the first time that three women ran under 2:19 in a race. All three broke the previous Berlin Marathon course record.

In addition to these elite athletes, thousands upon thousands of runners took on the course with the crowd willing them forward. Congratulations to all the participants, and kudos to the spectators and volunteers for creating such an empowering atmosphere!