From marathon disappointment to record-breaking humility, a year of highs, lows, and inspiring sportsmanship.
The legendary Kenyan marathon runner Eliud Kipchoge experienced a year filled with both triumphs and challenges that left the world in awe of his unbreakable spirit.
In 2023, the marathon world witnessed Kipchoge participate in two marathons, setting new records and facing unexpected setbacks.
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Dissappointment in Boston
The year started on a rather sour note for Kipchoge as he participated in the 2023 Boston Marathon in April.
It was a race that saw him face both achievements and disappointments, leaving fans and pundits questioning whether we were witnessing the undoing of a legend.
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Kipchoge finished in sixth place with a time of 2:09:23, his slowest marathon ever and his poorest showing since the 2020 London Marathon.
Unable to keep up with the pace in the rain, Kipchoge watched as Evans Chebet defended his title and secured back-to-back victories.
"Are we watching the undoing of Eliud Kipchoge in Boston? We haven't even hit the worst of the hills yet..." wondered Tim Hutchings on Eurosport commentary.
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This performance cast a shadow of doubt over Kipchoge's quest to become the first racer to win all six annual World Marathon Majors.
However, champions are defined not only by their victories but by their ability to bounce back from setbacks.
Redeeming himself in Berlin
Kipchoge did just that in September, when he conquered the Berlin Marathon for the record-breaking fifth time. Crossing the finish line in 2 hours, 2 minutes, and 42 seconds, Kipchoge claimed the top spot once again, 31 seconds ahead of his compatriot Vincent Kipkemoi.
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This victory not only marked his fifth win in Berlin, surpassing Haile Gebrselassie's record but also demonstrated that Kipchoge was far from finished.
Despite finishing outside his previous world record set in Berlin in 2022, Kipchoge's triumph in Berlin rejuvenated his spirits and silenced some of the doubts that had arisen after his Boston Marathon performance.
Record broken and awards received
As the year progressed, another twist awaited. On October 8, 2023, the marathon world was left astounded when Kelvin Kiptum shattered Kipchoge's world record with a remarkable time of 2:00:35 at the Chicago Marathon.
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Surprisingly, Kipchoge was not taken aback by this achievement. He expressed his happiness at witnessing the record being broken, stating, "I am looking forward to seeing records being broken because I have shown them the way."
Kipchoge's humility and sportsmanship shone through even in the face of a record-breaking loss, earning him further respect from the global running community.
Throughout the year, Kipchoge's contributions to society, both in the realm of athletics and humanitarian work, did not go unnoticed. He was honored with the prestigious 2023 Princess of Asturias Award for Sports, which came with a cash prize of €50,000 (Ksh7,434,533.05).
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This recognition celebrated his outstanding achievements as a long-distance runner and his commitment to promoting education and environmental protection through his foundation.
In addition to this, the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) awarded Eliud Kipchoge an Honorary Degree of Humane Letters. This acknowledgment was a testament to his service to society and unparalleled achievements in athletics.
Social media criticism
Despite his remarkable achievements and sportsmanship, Kipchoge found himself at the center of social media criticism in 2023. Some online critics took issue with his silence following the breaking of his world record by Kelvin Kiptum in Chicago.
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While many Kenyans rushed to congratulate Kiptum and celebrate his historic achievement, Kipchoge remained noticeably quiet on his social media platforms. This silence led to frustration among netizens, who were eager to see a public acknowledgment or message of support from the former record holder.
It isimportant to note that Kipchoge's silence may have had various reasons, including personal reflection and the desire to remain humble in the face of defeat. Nevertheless, the incident served as a reminder that even the most revered athletes can face scrutiny in the age of social media.
As he navigated the highs and lows of the year, Kipchoge's legacy as a marathon legend remained firmly intact.
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His ability to rise above setbacks and embrace the success of others showcases the true spirit of sportsmanship.
In the end, whether on the track or in life, Eliud Kipchoge continues to show the world the way, leaving an indelible mark on the sport of long-distance running.