The final days of Eliud Kipchoge: How much more can he give to the running world?

Eliud Kipchoge is the greatest marathoner that has ever lived. No doubt. When Pheidippides became the first man to run the marathon over 2,000 years ago, no one would have ever thought a human being would ever break the sub-2-hour barrier in the event. But it happened under our very eyes when Kipchoge ran 1:59.40 in Austria just over four years ago. 

Eliud Kipchoge, September 22, 2023, Berlin Marathon, photo by Kevin Morris

As we all know, that didn’t count as an official world record, but the fact that Kipchoge attempted it and did, speaks volumes of how the Kenyan has transcended the world of running during his peak years. 16 out of 19 marathon wins is just beyond imagination, and when you think about the myth that the first man to finish a marathon died, then it’s safe to say Kipchoge has given us great memories in the nearly ten years he has been running the 26.2-mile race. 

The thing is, all good things come to an end, eventually. Even the very best in sporting history had fallible moments, and knowing when to call it quits is absolutely crucial. The signs always creep up slowly, but they come, and although one can be in denial, it eventually comes simply because we are humans and our bodies age. 

Sharing your victory, Eliud Kipchoge with Patrick Sang, 25 September 2022, photo by NN Running team

The first sign Kipchoge got was seeing his countryman Kelvin Kiptum break his marathon world record in Chicago, a few days after he ran in Berlin, running a time of 2:00.35. No one expected the 23-year-old to take down the world record in only his third full marathon race. But it happened. And, although, Kipchoge hasn’t responded, deep down, he knows someone is coming to knock him off his perch. All he has to do now is to deliver at the Paris 2024 Olympics, but that might seem the hard part. 

Kipchoge’s climb to the top of marathon greatness wasn’t as meteoric and stellar as many would seem to think. His career on the track didn’t seem to reach the heights of the likes of Kenenisa Bekele and Mo Farah. It wasn’t until 2012, after he failed to qualify for the London Olympics, that his sojourn in the marathon took flight.  

Kelvin Kiptum breaks WR in Men’s marathon in 2:00.35, photo by Kevin Morris

As Kipchoge approached his late 30s, questions arose about the sustainability of his remarkable career. Could he continue to dominate the marathon world at an age where most athletes contemplate retirement? While Kipchoge’s age seemed inconsequential in the face of his indomitable spirit, the emergence of Kelvin Kiptum brought about new dynamics in the world of marathon running.

Kiptum, a fellow Kenyan, burst onto the international marathon scene with unparalleled speed and endurance. His victory at the Chicago Marathon, in which he broke Kipchoge’s once-unbreakable world record, sent shockwaves throughout the running community. It wasn’t meant to be. How can a 23-year-old obliterate such a record?  Surely nobody has to follow the template of Kipchoge’s success, but this is the next level. 

As the world marveled at Kiptum’s achievement, the spotlight once again turned to Kipchoge. Could he maintain his status as the greatest marathon runner, especially with the looming prospect of turning 40? The answer lies in the very essence of Kipchoge’s character and his relentless pursuit of excellence.

Eliud Kipchoge training, in Kenya, photo by NN Running team

Kipchoge’s success is not just a result of his exceptional physical abilities, but equally a manifestation of his mental fortitude. He exudes unwavering self-belief, discipline, and an unquenchable thirst for improvement. Kipchoge’s meticulous approach to training, nutrition, and recovery has allowed him to defy the conventional limitations of age.

His philosophy is simple yet profound: “No human is limited.” These words, which have become a mantra for athletes and enthusiasts worldwide, capture the essence of Kipchoge’s mindset. He believes in pushing the boundaries of human achievement, in challenging the norm, and in relentlessly pursuing one’s dreams.

One does not run a 2:02 marathon or better without focused training, Eliud Kipchoge in a hard session, photo by NN Running team

Kipchoge’s extraordinary dedication is not without reward. He has two Olympic gold medals to his name, one from the 2016 Rio Olympics and another from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. These achievements solidify his status as one of the greatest Olympians of all time. The prospect of securing a third gold in Paris in 2024 is not merely an aspiration; it’s a testament to the enduring legacy of a champion.

As the world counts down to the 2024 Olympics in Paris, the stage is set for a battle of epic proportions. Kipchoge and Kiptum, representing different generations of marathon runners, will compete not only for victory but also for a place in history. In this captivating rivalry, the age-defying champion seeks to prove once more that he is, indeed, limitless.

Eliud Kipchoge, training in Kenya, photo by NN Running team

Paris presents him with another chance to make further history, as no man has ever won three marathon gold at the Games. What’s more, he would be the first to win it three times straight after his wins in Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2021.

Kipchoge has shrugged off those who feel he will be too old to contest for gold in the French capital, drawing comparisons with five-time Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo and seven-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton who are still going strong at 38 years of age.

Eliud Kipchoge, Tokyo 2021, photo by NN Running Team.

“I always say, when you feel real pain, that is where success is, so the only way to be successful is to press on and you will be there. You cannot crack, so pain is a positive thing,” said Kipchoge. Its quest for gold in Paris is not just a race; it’s a symbol of human potential, a testament to the age-defying spirit, and a tribute to the unrelenting pursuit of excellence.