PB-seeking Kipchoge favourite to defend Berlin title

Carlo JonkermanFeatures Writer, KweséESPN3 Minute Read
Despite the testing conditions at the 2017 Berlin Marathon, Eliud Kipchoge comfortably claimed a second title in Germany's capital -- he will start as favourite again in 2018AP Photo/Michael Sohn

Wilson Kipsang talking up his plan of setting a world record at Sunday's Berlin Marathon, as he did while winning the 2013 edition, is all well and good except for one reason... Eliud Kipchoge.

Kipchoge is also in the elite field for the 45th running of the fastest of the World Marathon Majors and, as defending champion, comes into the race as the favourite. The 33-year-old Kenyan has earned the moniker of 'greatest marathoner of the modern era' but the world record he himself craves has eluded him... which is part of the reason why he has chosen Berlin over Chicago and New York City to round off his year's work.

"Berlin Marathon, out of the six major marathons, has the fastest course ever and I think that's the place to run my personal best," Kipchoge says in a video released by his NN Running Team in the buildup to this year's race.

While Kipchoge's official marathon PB is 2:03:05, set while winning the 2016 London Marathon, he of course has set the fastest-ever recorded time over the 42.195km marathon distance -- 2:00:25. That came during a failed attempt in May 2017 at a first sub-two-hour assisted marathon as part of his shoe sponsor Nike's Breaking2 campaign.

The nett result of that attempt -- paced by a lead car with supporting runners joining in stages on the Monza racing track in Italy -- was that Kipchoge had arguably his best chance to overhaul the 2:02:57, set by another Kenyan in Dennis Kimetto in Germany's capital four years ago. That was until rain and humidity last September meant Kipchoge had to settle -- only -- for a second Berlin title and improving his career marathon record to eight wins out of nine (since improved to nine-from-ten with his third win in London this past April).

"I think the weather in Germany is not like the weather in other countries, especially in September... but all in I can say it's really flat, more than other races," says Kipchoge about why Berlin is oftentimes the fastest of the year's major marathons.

If Kipchoge is going to hold off Kipsang, improve his exceptional winning record by becoming the fifth man to go back-to-back in Berlin and threaten Kimetto's world record, then he will also be counting on some outside help.

"The crowd for Berlin is actually on a different level ... from the first kilometres to the last kilometre. They are really pushing you and they really shout and start singing. That's one way of giving me big morale inside the course."

By the way, if you were wondering about that blemish on Kipchoge's marathon record, you'd have to go back to 2013... at the selfsame Berlin Marathon ... where Kipchoge had to look up the road as Kipsang sailed through the Brandenburg Gate to set a new world record. What price a reversal of fortunes come Sunday?

Take ESPN Everywhere

Download the #1 sports app