Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge crosses the finish line to win the Tokyo marathon
Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge crosses the finish line to win the Tokyo marathon Image Credit: Reuters

Kenya’s double Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge said he would aim for “one thing at a time” after narrowly failing to beat his own world record in a dominating performance at the Tokyo marathon on Sunday.

Kipchoge won the race in 02:02.40, the fourth-fastest time in history, to give him victories in four of the world’s six major marathons.

But Kipchoge was unable to beat the 2:01.39 he clocked at the 2018 Berlin marathon, hindered partly by a wrong turn around the 10km mark that cost him valuable seconds.

The 37-year-old has now run three of the four fastest marathons in history and has ambitions to win a record-breaking third consecutive Olympic gold at Paris 2024.

“I think I am happy to run a course record here in Tokyo,” said Kipchoge, who joined a select club of athletes last year when he defended his 2016 Rio Olympics gold at the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Games. “I always say that I aim one thing at a time. I am going back to Kenya to talk with the coaches, talk with the management, my team about the opportunities and the goals that we are going to set together because we are working as a team.”

The Tokyo marathon was taking place for the first time in two years because of the pandemic, and it took an unexpected twist when the leading pack took a wrong turn around the 10km mark.

‘Inspire the world’

The runners had to double back on themselves after following a TV truck in the wrong direction, disrupting their rhythm and costing them about 10 seconds.

Kenyan Amos Kipruto was the only runner able to keep up with Kipchoge until the world record holder broke free around the 35km mark.

Kipchoge crossed the tape to savour victory finally in Tokyo, having won his Olympic title in Sapporo last summer after the race was relocated over heat concerns.

“The reason I came back, first, was to run in the streets of Tokyo as I promised last year,” said Kipchoge. “Second was to come and run strong, third was to come and inspire the world, fourth was to come and enjoy the streets of Tokyo by telling people that if we come together we can resolve.”

Kipruto finished second in a personal-best 2:03.13 and Ethiopia’s Tamirat Tola was third in 2:04.14.

Kenya’s Brigid Kosgei, another world record holder, won the women’s race in 2:16.02. Ethiopia’s Ashete Bekere was second in 2:17:58, while her compatriot Gotytom Gebreslase was third in 2:18.18.