So, when he lined up for his debut Boston Marathon recently, fans looked forward to watching another Kipchoge coronation. Except he finished a disappointing sixth, leaving many with the question: How could this have happened? There was firstly a fast start on an unfamiliar course and perhaps that sapped his legs by the time he hit the rolling hills over the final third of the race.
Then there was the water bottle he missed at a late aid station. And there was the notoriously tough course itself, with its many dips and climbs, which rewards strength rather than flat-out speed. Kipchoge offered his own explanation: At around the 30-kilometre mark, his upper left leg began to bother him. “There’s where the problem came in,” he said.
“I tried to do what was necessary, but it was not working.” Did he consider dropping out? “A lot was going on in my mind,” he said.
“But I said, ‘Hey, I can’t quit.’ They say it’s important to win. But it’s great to participate and finish.”
Impossible standards One of Kipchoge’s biggest challenges is the impossible standard he’s set for himself.
“He’s the Michael Jordan or the Tom Brady of marathons,” said Mark Coogan, a former US Olympic marathoner.
“But those guys didn’t win every game either. Or they had some subpar per formances where they weren’t at their best. And that’s going to happen over time.”
It’s happened before, too. At the 2020 London Marathon, Kipchoge arrived having won 10 consecutive marathons, including an Olympic gold. He owned the world record and was the first man to dip under the two-hour barrier.
And yet, Kipchoge finished eighth.
“This is sport,” he had said at the time. “Today you are up, tomorrow you are down.”
He recovered from that result by winning his next four marathons, claiming another Olympic title, and breaking his own world record by 30 seconds. This time, too, he reacted with a similar philosophy.
“Yesterday is a cancelled cheque,” he said. “Today is cash. Tomorrow is a promissory note. Let us forget about the cancelled cheques. Let us talk of the cash and the promissory notes.”.