The Kenyan’s magnificent marathon record has re-opened the debate as to who is the greatest male distance runner in history

In an AW readers’ poll three years ago, Haile Gebrselassie was voted as the greatest male distance runner in history.

The Ethiopian legend received 45.6% of the votes with Emil Zátopek runner-up followed by Kenenisa Bekele, Mo Farah, Paavo Nurmi, Lasse Viren and Abebe Bikila.

Eliud Kipchoge was not even an option but after his magnificent marathon record of 2:01:39 on Sunday in Berlin, the Kenyan has re-opened the debate.

Certainly, if he successfully defends his Olympic marathon title in Tokyo in two years’ time, at the very least he will be hot on the heels of Haile when it comes to distance running immortality.

After memorably out-kicking Bekele and Hicham El Guerrouj to win the world 5000m title aged 18 in 2003, he enjoyed a fine track career with PBs of 12:46.53 for 5000m and 26:49.02 for 10,000m before transitioning on to the roads in spectacular style.

His 10 major marathon victories have included three in London and three in Berlin, plus Chicago, Rotterdam, Hamburg and of course the Rio Olympics.

Kipchoge’s marathon career

1st 2:05:30 – Hamburg, April 2013
2nd 2:04:05 – Berlin, September 2013
1st 2:05:00 – Rotterdam, April 2014
1st 2:04:11 – Chicago, October 2014
1st 2:04:42 – London, April 2015
1st 2:04:00 – Berlin, September 2015
1st 2:03:05 – London, April 2016
1st 2:08:44 – Rio Olympics, August 2016
1st 2:03:32 – Berlin, September 2017
1st 2:04:17 – London, April 2018
1st 2:01:39 – Berlin, September 2018

In addition, he was the star performer in Nike’s Breaking2 time trial in Monza last year, where he clocked an eye-opening 2:00:25.

On the eve of last weekend’s race, Kipchoge’s team knew their athlete was in the form of his life. But the 33-year-old still had to deliver over 26.2 gruelling miles, many of which were run alone after his pacemakers peeled off prematurely.

Then, on a surreal and scintillating late-summer Sunday of athletics, we were entertained with another world record, too, as Kevin Mayer created decathlon history.

When it comes to the greatest, for me Kipchoge is not quite up there with Gebrselassie just yet, but victory in Tokyo will bring him pretty close.

» See the September 20 issue of AW, which is available digitally here, for full coverage of both world records

Photo by Nike Running