Records tumble at Berlin Marathon as Tigist Assefa sets new women’s world record, Eliud Kipchoge bags fifth title

Ethiopia's Tigist Assefa celebrates after smashing the women's marathon world record by crossing the finish line to win the women's race of the Berlin Marathon

Ethiopia's Tigist Assefa celebrates after smashing the women's marathon world record by crossing the finish line to win the women's race of the Berlin Marathon on September 24, 2023 in Berlin, Germany. Picture: Tobias Schwarz/AFP

Published Sep 25, 2023


Ethiopian Tigist Assefa smashed the women's marathon world record by more than two minutes in Berlin on Sunday as Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge won the men's race for a record fifth time.

Assefa clocked 2hr 11min 53sec, more than two minutes ahead of the previous world mark of 2:14:04 set by Kenyan Brigid Kosgei in Chicago in 2019.

"I wanted to break the marathon world record, but I couldn't imagine that it would result in a time under 2:12," said the 29-year-old.

"I am very happy.”

Assefa held back

Assefa said she held back in the first half of the race "so that I wouldn't be tired in the second half... in the second part, I could bring a lot more power into it.”

She said she hoped her win would "motivate many talented women, not only those on a high level but those who may be lower down to rise up.”

Assefa finished almost six minutes ahead of Kenyan Sheila Chepkirui. Tanzanian Magdalena Shauri finished third, nearly seven minutes behind Assefa.

Chepkirui told reporters she "had to suffer in the second half", but said "I'm happy, I'm on the podium.”

Assefa broke away early in perfect conditions in the German capital and maintained her pace to become the fourth woman to set the world record in Berlin but the first since Japan's Naoko Takahashi in 2001.

Assefa crossed the line just after men's world record holder Kipchoge won his race in 2hr 02min 42sec.

Kipchoge finished 31sec ahead of countryman Vincent Kipkemoi with Ethiopian Tadese Takele third at 42sec.

Kipchoge's fifth Berlin win takes him past Ethiopian Haile Gebrselassie's four victories but the Kenyan finished outside his previous world record, set last year in Berlin, of 2:01:09.

Expectations versus reality

"Sure, I expected myself to be able to set a world record again, but I can live with the fact that it didn't work out," Kipchoge told the post-race press conference.

"The beauty of sport is to accept the outcome and move on" Kipchoge said "sport is really beautiful”.

Asked what had changed from his first win in Berlin to his last, he said "running is no longer an individual event, running is a team event.”

Kipchoge, who has won the last two Olympic golds, looked forward to the 2024 Games in Paris, saying he "hoped to repeat his victory" but said he would be "happy (to be on) the podium”.

'Coming home’

Despite doubts after a surprise sixth-place at the Boston Marathon in April, 38-year-old Kipchoge said he felt he was "coming home" at where he has set the world record at twice.

Kipchoge and Ethiopian Derseh Kindie pulled away from the pack early, the two crossing the halfway point with a split of 60:21, slower than the Kenyan's 2022 world-record time of 59:51.

Kindie, whose personal best stands seven minutes outside the world mark, kept pace with Kipchoge until 31 kilometres, where he suddenly fell back and appeared to drop out of the race, walking gingerly on the footpath as other runners overtook him.

Kipchoge kept up his pace and crossed the line well clear of other runners for a record fifth win.

Two minutes before the marathon began, police dragged climate protesters carrying buckets of orange paint off the course within sight of the runners standing on the starting blocks.

Only traces of paint remained as the race began on time.

Berlin mayor Kai Wegner started the race pressing a red buzzer, the organisers feeling the traditional starting pistol was inappropriate in light of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.