Eliud Kipchoge: Analysis of his marathon performances

Eliud Kipchoge

Eliud Kipchoge stands as a towering figure in the world of long-distance running. He holds the remarkable distinction of being the first individual to complete the 42.195 km marathon distance in less than two hours. This Kenyan athlete also boasts an impressive track record in athletics. Utilizing the advanced performance analysis and prediction model developed by researchers at the CNRS and MIT, we delve into an in-depth examination of the achievements of this double Olympic Champion and current world record holder.

Eliud Kipchoge has a MAS (Maximum Aerobic Speed) of 24.3 km/h

Eliud Kipchoge’s athletic prowess is not only evident in his marathon achievements but also in his impressive Maximum Aerobic Speed (MAS) of 24.3 km/h. His journey began on the track, where he made a significant mark by winning the 5000m World Championship in 2003 in Paris. Kipchoge’s focus remained on track events until 2011, earning him Olympic and World Championship medals in the 5000m.

His best track records are as follows:

  • 1500m: 3:33.20
  • 3000m: 7:27.66
  • 5000m: 12:46.53
  • 10000m: 26:49.02

This initial phase of his career was crucial for optimizing his VO2max and his MAS. Our performance prediction model estimates Kipchoge’s Maximum Aerobic Speed (MAS) at 24.3 km/h. Notably, Kipchoge’s team has never publicly disclosed his VO2max, a crucial endurance metric, typically determined in a laboratory setting, to our knowledge.

Eliud Kipchoge's personal records

The list of all marathons run by Eliud Kipchoge

Eliud Kipchoge immediately succeeded in his transition from the track to road and marathon racing. Observe his progression (15 wins in 17 marathons!):

  • 21/04/2013: Hamburg Marathon – 1st in 2h05:30
  • 29/09/2013: Berlin Marathon – 2nd in 2h04:05
  • 13/04/2014: Rotterdam Marathon – 1st in 2h05:00
  • 12/10/2014: Chicago Marathon – 1st in 2h04:11
  • 26/04/2015: London Marathon – 1st in 2h04:42
  • 27/09/2015: Berlin Marathon – 1st in 2h04:00
  • 24/04/2016: London Marathon – 1st in 2h03:05
  • 21/08/2016: Rio Olympic Games Marathon – 1st in 2h08:44
  • 06/05/2017: Monza Breaking 2 – 2h00:25 (not an official race)
  • 24/09/2017: Berlin Marathon – 1st in 2h03:32
  • 22/04/2018: London Marathon – 1st in 2h04:17
  • 16/09/2018: Berlin Marathon – 1st in 2h01:39 (World Record)
  • 28/04/2019: London Marathon – 1st in 2h02:37
  • 12/09/2019: 1:59 Challenge – 1h59:41 (not an official race)
  • 4/10/2020: London Marathon – 8th in 2h06:49
  • 18/04/2021: Enschede Marathon – 1st in 2h04:30
  • 18/04/2021: Tokyo Olympic Games Marathon – 1st in 2h08:38
  • 6/03/2022: Tokyo Marathon – 1st in 2h02:40
  • 25/09/2022: Berlin Marathon – 1st in 2h01:09 (World Record)

The Kenyan athlete, born in 1984, broke the world record twice, in Berlin in 2018 and 2022. These two world records were run very differently, with a half-marathon split of 1h01:06 in 2018 (negative split race) and on ultra-fast bases of under 2 hours for the marathon at 59:51 in 2022.

Before achieving 2h01:39 in Berlin in 2018, the world record was held by his compatriot Dennis Kimetto in 2h02:57 (Berlin 2014).

One had to go back to 1967 to see a new world record improved by more than 1 minute and 18 seconds! Australian Derek Clayton had then run in 2h09:36 (Fukuoka 1967) against 2h12:00 (Polytechnic Marathon of London 1965) by Japanese Morio Shigematsu.

It’s important to note that while Kipchoge’s achievements are monumental, his Breaking 2 and 1:59 Challenge attempts were not officially ratified by World Athletics. These attempts included various aids, which could be considered forms of technological doping, such as pacing behind a car for better aerodynamics, following a ground laser for pace setting, and having pacemakers throughout the course. Additionally, these private attempts were not part of an official competition.

Eliud Kipchoge’s exceptional endurance

Endurance, defined as the capacity to sustain a specific intensity over an extended period, is a crucial element in long-distance running. Eliud Kipchoge exemplifies superior endurance with a remarkable score of 7.2. In practical terms, this means he can maintain 90% of his Maximum Aerobic Speed (MAS) for approximately 43 minutes (7.2 multiplied by 6).

To put this into perspective, consider Haile Gebrselassie, an Ethiopian runner who was a formidable competitor of Kipchoge on the track and, to a lesser extent, in marathons. Gebrselassie had an MAS of 24.6 km/h and an endurance score of 5.7. While Gebrselassie exhibited greater speed on the track, Kipchoge’s superior endurance gave him a distinct advantage in marathon running.

Eliud Kipchoge’s official personal records and performance analysis

His official personal records include:

  • 3000m: 7:27.66 (2011)
  • 5000m: 12:46.53 (2004)
  • 10000m: 26:49.02 (2007)
  • Half Marathon: 59:25 (2012)
  • Marathon: 2:01:09 (2022)

The performance prediction model applied to Eliud Kipchoge for the above 5 distances indicates that his half marathon is the least optimized distance (because it falls below the line). His times in the 3000m, 5000m, and marathon are his best performances (above the line). Of course, this is proportional to Kipchoge’s level, I would love to run a half marathon in 59 minutes 😄

To provide context, the performance prediction model estimates Kipchoge’s potential as follows:

  • 5km: 12:49 (96% of MAS)
  • 10km: 26:40 (92% of MAS)
  • Half Marathon: 58:49 (88% of MAS)
  • Marathon: 2:02:50 (84% of MAS)

Interestingly, Kipchoge’s actual half marathon time slightly skews the prediction. While this distance appears to be less optimized in comparison to others, it’s believed that Kipchoge has the potential to surpass the current world record in the half marathon, possibly achieving a time around 58 minutes.

A scientifically validated performance prediction model

The performance prediction model we utilized has been developed through a collaborative effort between runners and scientists from the CNRS and MIT, of which I am proud to have been a part. This model has not only been published in the renowned scientific journal PLoS ONE but has also been validated using the results of thousands of runners.

In essence, the model allows, based on race results from 800m to marathon, to analyze and predict running performances. It works on an individual level, as shown here with Eliud Kipchoge or myself, where I explain in this article its usefulness in training, and on the level of world records.

The model provides four critical parameters: Maximum Aerobic Speed (MAS), the time of support at MAS, and indices for both short-distance and long-distance endurance. These parameters offer an insightful estimation of an athlete’s capabilities.

For those interested in understanding their own running potential, we offer a MAS and endurance calculation tool on our website. By inputting one or two race results, you can receive a personalized performance prediction, including estimated times for 5km, 10km, 20km, half marathon, and marathon distances.