Kipchoge’s World Record – A marathon pacing masterclass

Eliud Kipchoge’s world record marathon performance at the Berlin marathon on Sunday was astonishing. The way in which  he devastated the old world record running 2:01:39 we will talk about for decades to come. Apart from the time the most impressive part of this run is Kipchoge’s pacing.

A feature of Kipchoge’s 11 marathons is his ultra consistent even pacing. The Berlin marathon 2018 is the most perfect example yet from the brilliant Kenyan and achieved despite his pacemakers faltering much earlier than expected. Pacing during a marathon is very important, being able to remain patient and disciplined in order to give your best effort over the last 10km is essential for running your best regardless of your ability. Kipchoge does this better (and faster) than anyone.

Dennis Kimetto’s former world record of 2:02:57 requires an evenly split kilometre pace of 2:55 min/km over 42.2km of the marathon. The Kipchoge team had made no secret that this would be a world record attempt in the lead up to Berlin. Just days before the race it was announced a half way target time of 61:00 or 2:53 min/km would be asked of pacemakers. Kipchoge clearly wanting to bank a 30-60 seconds for the second half and be under world record pace at half way.

Kipchoge’s kilometre splits don’t tell the full story but they do show his intention to break the world record and how brilliant he was throughout the race.

For the purpose of analysis we will break down Kipchoge’s kilometre splits into the three groups.

  1. Splits in the range of 2:52 – 2:55 – These are world record pace splits
  2. < 2:52 – The kilometres faster than world record pace
  3. >2:55 – Kilometres outside world record pace

When we look deeper at these splits it is clear just how amazing this run was. It is also clear that Kipchoge is aiming to be as evenly paced as possible on or slightly under world record pace and he barely drifts his focus throughout. 27/42 kilometres are within the world record range 2:52 – 2:55.

Kipchoge started very quick with a 2:43 min/km opening split, good enough for a sub 1:55 marathon. He and his pacemaker quickly hit their rhythm though after putting the breaks on in 2km with 2:58 they went through the next 7km in the world record range. There was a brief moment at kilometres 10, 13 & 14 which were all 2:57, this coinciding with pacers dropping back after 15km leaving Kipchoge with just one man to pace him. From here the pace got quicker to halfway as they chased the target time of 61:00 missing by just 5 seconds.

When Kipchoge’s pace dropped outside world record pace at 25km after a 2:56 split, Kipchoge’s pacer dropped out leaving him alone for the remaining 17km. Quite remarkably that was the last kilometre outside the world record range. All of the last 17km run alone by Kipchoge are in the world record pace or faster. Kipchoge clearly relished this time alone, just him versus history of the 9km splits he ran under the world record range six of these were after his pacemakers dropped out.

By 40km it was a matter of how much the world record would be broken by and Kipchoge ran his second fastest split with a 2:46 and followed that up to close in 2:50 min/km for the greatest run in history.

Only 6/42km were run slower that the old world record pace. All of these were run with the aid of pacemakers and twice Kipchoge reacted by running quicker with his pacemakers unable to stay with him. Kipchoge effectively broke the marathon world record without the help of pacemakers, his best work was done after they dropped.

There were 9/42km under the world record range. Apart from the lightning quick first kilometre all of these were run when Kipchoge’s pacer was chasing their half way target or Kipchoge was chasing history in the backend of the marathon.

For rivals of Kipchoge it is sobering what the numbers indicate. Kipchoge is able to pace his marathon perfectly and in Berlin 2018 he was better without the aid of pacemakers. Unless Kipchoge himself can improve it, this world record may stand for a long time. One of the greatest moments in sports history.

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