Completing a sensational weekend of road running, Brigid Kosgei broke the world record* at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon on Sunday (13), winning the IAAF Gold Label road race in 2:14:04.
Lawrence Cherono, winner of this year's Boston Marathon, won a close men's contest in 2:05:45 to complete a Kenyan double in the Windy City.
Kosgei’s run came little more than 24 hours after fellow Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge became the first man to cover 26.2 miles within two hours, clocking 1:59:41 in Vienna. Unlike Kipchoge’s performance, though, Kosgei’s mark was set in an official race on a record-eligible course.
Kosgei, who won in Chicago last year in 2:18:35 and improved her PB to 2:18:20 to win in London earlier this year, set out at a blisteringly fast pace, covering the first 5km in 15:28. Ethiopia’s Ababel Yeshaneh was dragged through the section in a swift 15:36 with Gelete Burka a further 27 seconds in arrears.
Her pace dropped slightly after that initial enthusiasm but the 25-year-old settled into regular 16-minute splits for each five-kilometre segment. She went through 10km in 31:28, 2:12:26 marathon pace, and 15km in 47:26. At that point she was almost a minute ahead of Yeshaneh, who herself was on schedule for a 2:16:00 finish at that point.
Kosgei’s half-way split of 1:06:59 suggested a finishing time of about 2:14:00. Fewer than five kilometres later, her lead over Yeshaneh had grown to two minutes, reaching 25km in 1:19:33. As she continued to run behind two male pacemakers, Kosgei added another minute to her lead thanks to a 15:45 split between 25km and 30km.
Another sub-16-minute five-kilometre segment followed, this time 15:56, and her 35km split (1:51:14) still indicated a finishing time about a minute inside Paula Radcliffe’s world record of 2:15:25, set 16 years ago. Given the speed she was going and how far into the race she was, she looked relatively comfortable too.
Nearly four-and-a-half minutes behind, Yeshaneh had a 33-second margin over Burka but both women were also on course for a personal best.
The race, though, was all about Kosgei’s world record attempt and she showed no signs of fading in the closing stages. The pace makers peeled away before the final two miles as Kosgei forged on alone.
With about 20 seconds left of running, she couldn’t help but smile as she realised the magnitude of what she was about to achieve. Moments later, she crossed the line in 2:14:04 to take 81 seconds off the longest-standing marathon world record – men’s or women’s – in the post-war era.
"I'm happy and I feel good," said Kosgei. "I ran here last year so I knew it was a good course. There was a little bit of wind but it was okay. People were cheering all along the course, which gave me more energy."
"We always knew the time would come when the record would be broken," said Radcliffe, who was in Chicago and congratulated Kosgei when she finished. "When I saw how fast Brigid was running in the first half of the race, I knew she had a good chance of getting the record.
"I've always said 17 is my lucky number and it was exactly 17 years ago to the day that I set my first world record here in Chicago."
Yeshaneh was a distant second, holding off a fast-finishing Burka as the Ethiopian duo crossed the line in 2:20:51 and 2:20:55 respectively. USA's Emma Bates, contesting just her second marathon, was fourth in a PB of 2:25:27.
Cherono out-kicks Debela
In contrast to the women’s race, the men’s event was a much closer contest.
The opening pace was solid as a lead pack of nine men – including Boston Marathon champion Lawrence Cherono, defending champion Mo Farah and Olympic bronze medallist Galen Rupp – reached 10km in 29:27.
Shortly after, the group started to break up with Rupp, Farah and Abdi Bashir falling behind, leaving just six men together at 15km (44:10) – Kenya’s Cherono, Dickson Chumba and Bedan Karoki and Ethiopian trio Dejene Debela, Asefe Mengstu and Seifu Tura.
The lead pack of six ran together for another 15 kilometres, passing the half-way point in 1:02:14 before reaching 30km in 1:28:58, their pace now indicating a finishing time just outside 2:05. Further back, Abdi had passed a struggling Farah and was running alone in seventh place.
Once the pace makers had dropped out, Karoki tried to dictate the pace and Chumba was unable to sustain it for much longer, leaving five men in the lead pack. Tura was the next to exit the lead pack, leaving Debela, Mengstu, Baroki and Cherono in the hunt for the podium places as they passed 40km in 1:59:08.
Behind them, Abdi was finishing strongly and had made up 37 seconds on the lead quartet over the course of the previous five kilometres. With just two kilometres left, though, the Belgian had left himself with too much work to do.
Karoki faded out of contention before the final turn, leaving Cherono, Debela and Mengstu to sprint for victory with the finish line in sight. Cherono emerged victorious in 2:05:45, winning by just one second from Debela. Mengstu was a close third in 2:05:48.
Karoki placed fourth in 2:05:53, just holding off Abdi, who was fifth in a Belgian record of 2:06:14. Further back, Tura was sixth (2:08:35) and Chumba seventh (2:09:11) with Farah placing eighth in 2:09:58.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF
*pending the usual ratification procedure
1 Lawrence Cherono (KEN) 2:05:45
2 Dejene Debela (ETH) 2:05:46
3 Asefa Mengstu (ETH) 2:05:48
4 Bedan Karoki (KEN) 2:05:53
5 Bashir Abdi (BEL) 2:06:14
6 Seifu Tura (ETH) 2:08:35
7 Dickson Chumba (KEN) 2:09:11
8 Mo Farah (GBR) 2:09:58
9 Jacob Riley (USA) 2:10:36
10 Jerrell Mock (USA) 2:10:37
1 Brigid Kosgei (KEN) 2:14:04
2 Ababel Yeshaneh (ETH) 2:20:51
3 Gelete Burka (ETH) 2:20:55
4 Emma Bates (USA) 2:25:27
5 Fionnuala McCormack (IRL) 2:26:47
6 Stephanie Bruce (USA) 2:27:47
7 Lindsay Flanagan (USA) 2:28:08
8 Laura Thweatt (USA) 2:29:06
9 Lisa Weightman (AUS) 2:29:45
10 Taylor Ward (USA) 2:30:14