Back to form, Eliud Kipchoge wins NN Mission Marathon in the Netherlands

Taylor Dutch
·3-min read
Photo credit: Getty Images / Dean Mouhtaropoulos
Photo credit: Getty Images / Dean Mouhtaropoulos

Three months before the Tokyo Olympic Games, Eliud Kipchoge returned to his winning ways when he ran 2:04:30 to win Sunday’s NN Mission Marathon in Enschede, the Netherlands.

The world record-holder competed in the elite-only race with 70 runners aiming to secure an Olympic qualifying time after the majority of races were cancelled or postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The NN Mission Marathon was originally scheduled for April 11 in Hamburg, Germany, but the race was postponed to April 18 and relocated to a closed-looped course at Twente Airport because of rising COVID-19 cases in Hamburg.

The 2016 Olympic Marathon champion ran with fellow Kenyan Jonathan Korir and a pacemaker until about 30K before he made a move that put him clear of the rest of the field. He finished more than two minutes ahead of Korir (2:06:40) and third-place finisher Goitom Kifle (2:08:07) of Eritrea.

In the women’s race, Katharina Steinrueck of Germany won the women’s event in 2:25:59. She finished ahead of Sara Moreira of Portugal (2:26:42) and Rabea Schoeneborn of Germany (2:27:03).

In a press conference on Friday, Kipchoge shared that he wanted to set a positive example in these challenging times. 'My goal is to run a good race and a beautiful race, and to show the world that we’re in a new transition towards the future... You can still run even in the middle of a pandemic,' he told reporters in a virtual press conference.

Kipchoge’s performance on Sunday followed a rare defeat at the 2020 London Marathon, where the Olympic champion faded in the last 5K and finished eighth in 2:06:49, more than a minute behind winner Shura Kitata of Ethiopia. Citing a blocked ear during the race, the 36-year-old marathon great told Runner’s World in October 2020 that he would return to the top level.

'Sport is unpredictable, but you know what they say: If you want to enjoy sport then you accept the results. So I accept the result and congratulate all the finishers,' he said.

After taking time to recover and build his training in Kaptagat, Kenya, Kipchoge shared insight into his preparations for the NN Mission Marathon and the postponed Tokyo Games in an April interview with Runner’s World.

'The pandemic hit us very hard,' Kipchoge said. 'I had to go home and stay within the compound, stay inside the houses with the family and the kids to help us not stress the virus. It was really hard to go to training as highly as possible and not to mix with people. I am happy that we resumed the training with the team. Although, [we are keeping COVID-19 safety protocols] in front of our minds, knowing that the virus is still around.'

Photo credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos - Getty Images
Photo credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos - Getty Images

This will be Kipchoge’s last marathon before the Olympic marathon on August 8 in Sapporo, Japan. He’ll be eyeing his second gold medal.

And with today’s tuneup, Kipchoge, showed he was back to form after London last autumn, his first loss in marathon since 2013 (Berlin). Before that, the first man to run under two hours in a marathon had 10 marathon wins in a row.

'All in all, life has been hard, but that’s how it all is,' he explained. 'We need to go through it and have hope. I think I’ve done a very good transition toward a bright future.'

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