Kipchoge vs. Kiptum – the future of the men’s marathon

The New York City Marathon, one of six races included in the World Marathon Majors, took place on Sunday, Nov. 5. On the men’s side, Tamirat Tola of Ethiopia pulled ahead of the leading pack at mile twenty. He finished with a time of 2:04:58, beating the old course record set by Geoffrey Mutai by eight seconds. The women’s race was much more suspenseful, with a lead pack of Hellen Obiri of Kenya, Letesenbet Gidey of Ethiopia, Sharon Lokedi of Kenya and Brigid Kosgei of Kenya all in contention for the win with less than eight hundred meters to go. Obiri made a bold move, bringing the lead pack to an all-out sprint. In the end, Obiri’s strategy would pay off; she took first in 2:27:23. Gidey followed six seconds after with Lokedi four seconds behind her. With over eight hundred feet of elevation and a lengthy uphill start, this race would never see a world record performance, but it does make for some great competition. 

For world record times, look no further than the Chicago Marathon and the Berlin Marathon. Both races have notoriously flat and fast courses, which have seen world records go down in the past few months. Tigist Assefa of Ethiopia demolished the previous women’s world record held by Sifan Hassan by nearly two minutes in Berlin, crossing the finish line in a time of 2:11:53. In Chicago, Kelvin Kiptum of Kenya became the first man to run sub-2:01:00 with a time of 2:00:35. This performance was miraculous, not only because it was only his third marathon, but also because it called into question the entire future of the distance. 

Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya has been hailed as the greatest distance runner of all time. He has a decade of professional marathon running experience under his belt and has won sixteen of his nineteen marathons. Few professional marathon runners have that kind of consistency, and none of them have done it with the astonishingly low times he has. At 38 years old, he has accomplished ten times more than most professional runners ever will. He was the previous men’s world record holder, having run 2:01:09 at the 2022 Berlin Marathon. 

Kiptum, at just 23 years old and with little experience in professional running or marathon running, broke his world record. This rivalry, centered around two good-natured countrymen, will make history in the marathon. With these two incredible athletes going head-to-head, a sub-2:00:00 marathon seems inevitable. The question stands: Who will be the one to break it? 

Will it be the young blood Kiptum? He seems to be the favorite, but many have raised concerns about his lack of experience and extremely mileage-heavy training which could easily lead to burnout or injury. Then what about Kipchoge? He has the experience and has trained consistently with only mild injury. However, critics have been quick to point to his age, saying he will soon be past his prime and won’t be able to replicate past performances.  

Kiptum and Kipchoge will face off at the Paris Olympics in summer 2024. When interviewed, Kiptum cited his dream of representing Kenya, which will no doubt become a reality. Kipchoge, two-time defending gold medalist, made it clear he would be going for another victory. Whether or not they will meet before the Olympics remains to be seen. Kiptum’s next race will be the Rotterdam Marathon on Apr. 14, 2024. Kipchoge has made no announcements regarding his upcoming race schedule. The only thing we can say for certain is that their clash in Paris will assuredly be legendary.