Kipchoge cements legacy as greatest marathon runner

    Lud Kipsoge from Kenya holds his country’s flag as he celebrates winning gold in the men’s marathon at the Tokyo Olympics on Sunday. Photo: Reuters

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    Lud Kipsoge from Kenya holds his country’s flag as he celebrates winning gold in the men’s marathon at the Tokyo Olympics on Sunday. Photo: Reuters

    About 30km in the men’s marathon in Sapporo on Sunday, Kenyan Eliud Kipsogge stepped out of the pack and started running his own race, chasing immortality.

    Kipchoge looked like a man determined to run for the legacy of greatness. He took a peak behind him at some point and no one was there. Alltan alone – the greatest marathon runner in history and one of the greatest Olympians.

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    “I wanted to create a space to show the world that this is a beautiful race,” Kipchoge said after winning the gold.

    He started smiling as the crazy Japanese marathon fans, who disobeyed the request of the Olympic organizers to stay away because of COVID-19, lined the streets of Sapporo and cheered him up to the finish line.

    Kipchoge was to become only the third person to retain the Olympic marathon title and consolidate his legacy. Smiling was his way of enjoying the fight, he said later.

    “That smile is happiness,” he said.

    He shook the fans as he went through the movie, hit his chest and threw his fist in the air.

    “I have fulfilled the legacy by winning the marathon for the second time, back to back. I hope now to help inspire the next generation,” he said.

    Doubts have been raised about his ability to retain the Olympic title he won five years ago in Rio de Janeiro after suffering a rare defeat in the London Marathon in October.

    The 36-year-old had won 10 consecutive games in the past and his eighth finish caused shivers that may have started to fade.

    Eliminate these concerns after the victory in the Netherlands in April. And after his victory on Sunday, in the last Olympic Games, questions about his abilities were raised in relief.

    He hit 2:08:38 to win the race, and now holds two of the top five fastest times ever published in the Olympic Marathons.

    Kipchoge said last month that winning this gold medal would be his greatest achievement – a big statement for an athlete who already holds Olympic gold, holds the world record and is the only person to have ever run a marathon in less than two hours.

    The marathon and the Tokyo Olympics in general were more than just sports for Kipchoge, they were about endurance.

    Representing hope after a year of human suffering and death due to the global pandemic, he said, the crowds wearing masks on the marathon route were a stark reminder that COVID-19 was still raging.

    His victory on Sunday was more important than the gold medal he wore around his neck after the race.

    “It means a lot to me, especially right now,” he told reporters later, saying last year was “really difficult”, especially with the postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

    The fact that the Games went ahead was important to show that one day life will return to normal, he said.

    “It’s a sign to the world that we are heading in the right direction – we are in the right transition to a normal life,” he said.

    Asked in July if the race at Sapporo would be his last, Kipsogge said he still has the fighting spirit to continue.

    “The end of my career will come automatically, that’s for sure, it’s in front of me, but for now I want to fight more,” he said. “I still want to go around the world and run, to inspire people.”

    On Sunday, he was still non-binding, saying he would take it one step at a time.

    “I will come back now, (I will) talk to my coach, I will see what the opportunities are in the world,” he said. “Now I want to enjoy the victory here in Tokyo.”

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