AT BOSTON, ELITE MEN GET A RARE AND SPECIAL CHANCE TO RUN AGAINST KIPCHOGEBy David Monti, @d9monti with Mirko Jalava (c) 2023 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
Eliud Kipchoge speaks with the media at the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel three days before the 2023 Boston Marathon (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)
BOSTON (14-Apr) — Eliud Kipchoge’s decision to run this year’s Boston Marathon has sent a jolt through this city, and the 38 year-old double Olympic Marathon gold medalist is clearly keen to add his name to the race’s prestigious winner’s list. He has surveyed the course and told reporters today that he is excited and ready to race.
“I had a chance yesterday to go through the course, but not run on it,” he said at a news conference today. “I’ve run through in my mind. It’s a beautiful course.”
Kipchoge, the world record holder, is the overwhelming favorite to win (the betting site Bovada has him at 1:4, meaning that their odds-makers feel he has an 80% chance of winning), but that has not left the rest of the men’s elite field the least bit discouraged. In fact, the opposite appears to be true. Other athletes are savoring the chance to share the starting line with the greatest marathoner of all time.
“It’s definitely exciting,” said American C.J. Albertson who led the 2021 edition of the race for over 20 miles before finishing tenth. He continued: “How many times do you get to… do any sport with the greatest of all time?”
An analysis performed for Race Results Weekly by the respected athletics statistics service Tilastopaja Oy showed that among the top-20 athletes entered in the race only nine have ever run against Kipchoge at any distance or on any surface. Another eight have only run against him once.
“I have never (run against Kipchoge),” said the 26 year-old Kenyan John Korir who won the 2021 Los Angeles Marathon and whose other brother, Wesley, was the Boston Marathon champion in 2012. “It feels good because Eliud Kipchoge wants to run the course record of Boston. I will try to maintain. If he runs a course record I will run my PR. I’m happy to be standing beside Eliud Kipchoge.”
According to the Tilastopaja Oy analysis, Kipchoge is 31-11 against the field life-to-date, including road, track and cross country races. Only four athletes entered here have ever beaten him: Benson Kipruto of Kenya (once), Shura Kitata of Ethiopia (once), Ghirmay Ghebreslassie of Eritrea (once), and Augustine Choge of Kenya (eight times).
Augustine Choge in Boston’s Copley Square three days before the 2023 Boston Marathon (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)
Choge, 36, came of age in both cross country and track with Kipchoge, and the pair have raced against each other 24 times from 2003 through 2021. When Kipchoge won his first international medal, the U20 title at the 2003 World Cross Country Championships, Choge finished fourth and both men received team gold medals. They raced each other five times at the Doha Diamond League (Choge finished ahead of Kipchoge three times), and Choge ran 7:28.00 at the Stuttgart indoor meeting in 2012, one place ahead of Kipchoge who ran 7:29.37.
“I do remember most of them,” said Choge when Race Results Weekly showed him his life-to-date record against Kipchoge. “We used to run in Doha. Doha was one of the best meets we used to do together. And, we did indoors together.” He continued: “He has been a great person to me.”
For most of their careers, Choge and Kipchoge did not train together or share the same coach or sponsor. But in 2018, Choge joined the NN Running Team and is now a training partner of Kipchoge in the team’s Kaptagat camp in Kenya.
“Eliud has been a good friend of mine and we’ve been doing track workouts together,” Choge said. “He has always been someone who is really supportive. When we were doing the track together he was working with a different management team. I was working with another management team. Still, we were good friends and still pushing each other in a race.”
As the man who has beaten Kipchoge more times than the entire rest of the field combined, what advice does Choge have on beating the only man to run under two hours for the marathon distance?
“I always say that everything is about mental and believing in yourself,” Choge said. “Eliud believes that there is no human that is limited. So I think myself I believe that whatever you do believe in yourself and you can achieve. Eliud is human being like any other human being. He’s beatable; you can beat him. It’s about your mindset. If you want to do your best it’s about your mindset.”
Admittedly, Choge is not among the favorites for Monday’s race. Despite stellar track credentials and a half-marathon personal best of 59:26, he has not yet capitalized on those accomplishments in the marathon. He’s only finished one, New York City in 2021, where he came through halfway in 1:04:49 but faded badly in the second half to run 2:20:53.
However, training with Kipchoge up to 200 kilometers per week has left Choge optimistic.
“For sure, I’ve been with Eliud so many times, in terms of training and racing,” he told Race Results Weekly. “And now that I am moving to road races, at least I am getting an opportunity of racing him again. He’s really a good person to race with who is willing to support you in anything he is capable of doing.”
As for Kipchoge, he said he was ready to accept whatever the outcome of Monday’s race.
“I cannot control the future; I can control the present,” Kipchoge said. He added: “I am hoping for the best.”