fb-pixelBoston Marathon 2023: Eliud Kipchoge, world's greatest, takes on legendary race Skip to main content
boston marathon

He’s the world’s greatest marathoner. He’s finally taking on the world’s most famous marathon.

At age 38, Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge has no plans to slow down anytime soon.KAZUHIRO NOGI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Whether or not Eliud Kipchoge completes his quest to win all six major 26-milers and an unprecedented third Olympic gold medal next year in Paris, the world’s greatest marathoner plans to keep pounding the pavement.

“Absolutely I will keep running,” vowed the 38-year-old Kenyan, who’ll make his long-awaited Boston debut on Patriots Day. “I want to show the world that you have to fight for something.

“It’s good to tell people that every day is a challenge, every day is a new day. Life cannot stop. We need to treat every challenge as new. I will still move on to show people that we do not need to stick with one thing forever. By working hard, let us push ahead, let us aim for another.”

Advertisement



At this point in his career, Kipchoge has few gaps in his gilded résumé. He holds the global record of 2 hours, 1 minute, and 9 seconds, set in Berlin last autumn. He won Olympic crowns at the Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro Games, has collected 10 World Marathon Majors titles, and has won 15 of the 17 marathons that he has undertaken over the past decade.

And Kipchoge is the only man ever to break two hours at the distance, which he accomplished four years ago in Vienna in a solo attempt.

His remarkable feat (1:59:40), achieved with the help of several dozen pacers, isn’t recognized as a global record because it didn’t happen in an open race. But that wasn’t the point of the exercise.

“We wanted to make history,” Kipchoge said. “And inspire the human family.”

What he wants to reinforce in various ways is his motto: “No human is limited.”

“My lasting legacy will be purely about inspiration,” Kipchoge declared after he repeated as Olympic champion two summers ago. “Because that’s what I want to drive in the mind of every human being in this world.”

Advertisement



Positivity and persistence are at the core of Kipchoge’s philosophy.

“In marathon there is a lot of challenges, ups and downs,” he said in “The Last Milestone,” the documentary about his sub-two-hour bid. “There is pain in training, pain in running, and joy at the end of the marathon.”

The race, Kipchoge said, reflects the variability of life.

“In marathon, we have flat courses, we have downhill courses,” he said during the peak of the pandemic. “It’s like a hilly course now. It is the hardest of times. It is that time in marathon when we are really struggling to go up the hill.”

Before Kipchoge became king of the road, he was a world-class competitor on the track, winning bronze in the 5,000 meters in the Athens Olympics and silver in Beijing, plus gold and silver at the global championships.

His track career essentially ended when he was bypassed for the 2012 Games team. But Kipchoge already was committed to a new challenge.

“It was time to say goodbye,” he said.

What Kipchoge was saying hello to was a grueling event with grinding preparation.

“I learned slowly by slowly how to handle the tiresome and cumbersome training,” he said. “It was not a one-night event. Every day you need to cover a lot of distance. It was tough to come from track and realize for the next four months I will be in training. It’s like ultimate fighting in America — train for months for 25 minutes, for five rounds.”

Advertisement



His marathon debut the following year in Hamburg, where Kipchoge set a course record while winning by more than two minutes, augured what has been an unparalleled stretch of dominance.

Kipchoge’s only two shortfalls came in 2013 in Berlin, where he was second to countryman Wilson Kipsang, who set a world record, and in 2020 in London, where, hampered by leg and hip cramps and an ear blockage, he struggled to eighth in chilly rain.

The 2020 London Marathon was held on a closed-loop course because of the coronavirus pandemic. Eliud Kipchoge struggled to an eighth-place finish.Richard Heathcote/Associated Press

“Sport is unpredictable,” Kipchoge said that day. “If you want to enjoy sport, then you accept the results.”

The result every other time has been a laurel wreath.

Kipchoge runs only two marathons a year and prepares meticulously for each.

“Life is waking up and working,” he said. “The moment you are no longer working, that is not life, that is something else. I am working every day and seeing the fruits.”

From Monday morning until Saturday, Kipchoge’s work involves a demanding regimen with his NN Running Team colleagues at the high-altitude camp in Kapsabet. Twice-a-day workouts, spartan lodgings, simple meals.

“Eliud’s almost like a holy man,” said Jake Scott, who directed “The Last Milestone.” “He has the qualities of an ascetic monk.”

Eliud Kipchoge (shown running in the Netherlands in 2021) has mastered his sport through mindfulness.PIROSCHKA VAN DE WOUW/Associated Press

Mindfulness and tranquility are essential to Kipchoge’s preparation and performance.

“When your mind is calm, well-concentrated, then the whole body is well-controlled and well taken care of,” he said in an Olympic Channel interview. “I always say I don’t run by my legs but I run by my heart and mind.”

Advertisement



Discipline and self-examination are the cornerstones of Kipchoge’s approach both to sport and life. On his bedroom wall in camp, Kipchoge posted a quote from the Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho: “If you want to be successful, you must respect one rule: Never lie to yourself.”

“I try to ask myself always: Am I on the right course?” Kipchoge said. “In everything, I assess myself. Am I doing anything positive to the world? Am I happy? That is my question at the end of the day.”

As his running days decelerate, Kipchoge will ramp up his new foundation, which stresses education and the environment, focusing particularly on children. Projects include building school libraries and planting trees.

“It is our responsibility as a human family to empower the next generation,” said Kipchoge, who says that his wife and three children are “my ignition key.” “When I am not here, the young ones will have grown and I trust that they will have the knowledge to develop this world.”

When his competitive career comes to a close, Kipchoge plans to travel the planet promoting his foundation.

“I want to go to every city, every continent, nearly every country to tell the young people that sport is life, that sport is health,” he said.

Eliud Kipchoge won the Olympic men's marathon in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro (pictured) and in 2021 in Japan. He's aiming for a third medal in Paris next summer.Petr David Josek/Associated Press

Until then, there’s unfinished business to attend to. Kipchoge needs to run in Boston and New York to complete his Six Stars journey of the global majors, which he could accomplish this year. And he wants to win that third Olympic gold medal next year.

Advertisement



“That would be a huge, huge, huge thing to have around my neck,” Kipchoge mused.

Boston, where Kipchoge had a standing invitation for years, had been on his bucket list, he often said. It was no coincidence that he chose to make his appearance this time to help mark the 10th anniversary of the Boylston Street bombings.

“Sport is the only thing that can bring us together, make us enjoy life, make us united,” he observed. “It’s now a crucial time for sports men and women to send the message. To tell people that the world is unhappy, so let us come together and push together. Let us hold each other’s hands and move forward.”

Read more about the Boston Marathon


John Powers can be reached at john.powers@globe.com.