Kipchoge struggles to 10th place as Kipruto wins Tokyo Marathon

Benson Kipruto of Kenya wins first place in the menís marathon during the Tokyo Marathon 2024 in Tokyo on March 3, 2024. AFP

Kenya’s double Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge said “not every day is Christmas” after his Paris Games preparations hit a snag with a 10th-place finish at Sunday’s Tokyo Marathon behind winner Benson Kipruto.

The 39-year-old Kipchoge faded badly at around the 20-kilometre mark and crossed the line in 2hr 6min 50sec.

Kenya’s Kipruto won in a course-record 2:02:16 ahead of countrymen Timothy Kiplagat (2:02:55) and Vincent Ngetich (2:04:18).

The race was taking place less than a month after world record-holder Kelvin Kiptum died when his car crashed into a tree in Kenya.

Kipchoge will attempt to win his third straight Olympic marathon gold later this year and he said it was “too early to say” what shape he will be in at the Paris Games.

“That’s how it is — not every day is Christmas Day,” he told Japan’s Nippon TV.

Kipchoge said “something happened in the middle of the race”, without elaborating.

He dropped back dramatically to leave Kiplagat, Kipruto and Ngetich fighting it out in the leading pack.

Kipchoge continued to struggle as the race wore on and had dropped out of the top 10 by the 35km mark.

“I will go back, relax and start training,” he said.

Ethiopia’s Sutume Asefa Kebede won the women’s race in 2hr 15min 55sec — also a course record.

Kenya’s defending champion Rosemary Wanjiru (2:16:14) was second ahead of Ethiopia’s world title-holder Amane Beriso Shankule (2:16:58).

Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands was fourth after clocking 2:18:05.

Kipruto eyes record

Kiptum was killed at the age of 24 on February 11, just months after he beat Kipchoge’s world record to set a new mark of 2:00:35 in Chicago.

Kiptum and Kipchoge were expected to face off for the first time at the Paris Olympics.

The Tokyo Marathon was Kipchoge’s first race since Kiptum’s death and he was on pace to reclaim the world record until he tumbled out of contention.

Kipruto took over the lead from Kiplagat around 30km in and powered towards the finish for a new personal best and the eighth-fastest time in history.

Kipruto said he did not know what had happened to Kipchoge but declared himself “ready” for the Paris Games if he is chosen for Kenya’s team.

“I didn’t know we were on world record pace — there was no problem, we were ready for it,” said the 32-year-old, the 2022 Chicago winner.

When asked if he could become the first person to run under two hours, Kipruto said: “Nothing is impossible, I will work on that.”

Kebede knocked more than two minutes off her personal best to claim the 10th-fastest women’s time in history.

“I was able to set a course record and I wasn’t expecting to do that,” she said.

Olympic 5,000m and 10,000m champion Hassan was competing in only her third marathon, having won both her previous races in London and Chicago.

She has yet to decide what events she will compete in at the Paris Olympics but she said she was satisfied with her performance.

“It doesn’t change my Olympics,” she said.

“I know what shape I’m in and it really doesn’t matter. I learned a lot.”

Kiptum was driving in the Rift Valley, the heartland of Kenyan distance running, when his car careered off the road.

Police said Kiptum and his Rwandan coach Gervais Hakizimana were killed on the spot while a woman passenger was injured.

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