Tigst Assefa didn’t just break the world record in the women’s marathon Sunday in Berlin, she obliterated it, lowering it by more than two minutes and becoming the first woman to finish a marathon in under 2 hours, 12 minutes.
The 26-year-old Ethiopian, once an 800-meter specialist running only her third marathon, finished in 2 hours, 11 minutes, 53 seconds on the flat, inner-city course. She broke the 2:14:04 mark set by Brigid Kosgei in 2019 in Chicago and was nearly six minutes faster than the second-place finisher, Kenya’s Sheila Chepkirui (2:17:49). Tanzania’s Magdalena Shauri was third in 2:18:41, and eight women overall finished under the 2:20 mark. Annie Frisbie was the top American runner, finishing 17th in 2:27:02.
"I knew I wanted to go for the world record but I never thought I would do this time," Assefa said (via Reuters). "It was the result of hard work."
Assefa lowered by almost four minutes the Berlin course record (2:15:37) she set last year with her previous personal best and she started fast Sunday, with her splits even faster after the halfway mark. Her time sets a mark for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.
“I have set a mark now,” she said. “The decision does not lie with me but with officials. It is up to the national committee to select me for the team.”
On the men's side, Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge won for the fifth time in Berlin, finishing in 2:02:42. Vincent Kipkemboi, also of Kenya, was 31 seconds behind in second place with Tadese Takele of Ethiopia another 11 seconds back in third.
The 38-year-old Kipchoge will attempt in Paris to win his third Olympic gold medal for Kenya, but on Sunday he could not lower the 2:01:09 world record he set last year in Berlin. Instead, his time Sunday was the eighth-fastest ever in the men's marathon.
“It didn’t go as expected but that’s how sport is,” Kipchoge said. “I’ve learned lessons. I have won, but I’ve not broken the world record. Every race is a learning lesson.”