I’ll be honest: I had no idea who Abraham Kiptum was prior to Sunday evening, when I learned via text message that he had broken the half-marathon world record with a 58:18 clocking in Valencia, Spain earlier in the day. Kiptum’s prior credentials weren’t unimpressive—he ran 2:05:26 for the marathon last year in Amsterdam and 59:09 for 13.1 miles just six weeks ago in Copenhagen—but apparently weren’t quite good enough to get him into this year’s Chicago Marathon.
So how do you explain the 29-year-old unknown’s 41-second improvement on Sunday? Was it coaching? His agent seems to think so, according to the aforelinked article. Was it the competition? Three guys broke 59 in the same race while the top 10 all cracked 60. The weather? Word on the street is that conditions were perfect. Was it the shoes? He was wearing the Vaporfly 4%, which Eliud Kipchoge wore to smash the marathon world-record last month in Berlin. Was it drugs? Testing in Kenya is notoriously bad. Some combination of all of the above? These are all fair inquiries and I don’t have any firm answers for you, sorry. But I do know that some guy no one had ever heard of until a couple days ago just broke an 8-year-old world record, which, for better or worse, is only going to lead to a lot more questions in the coming weeks and months. Stay tuned to this space as they arise.
+ Can we make “Rrrrrrrecord! Rrrrrrecord! Rrrrrrecord!” the athletics equivalent of “Goooooooooooooal! Goooooooooooooal! Goooooooooooooal!”? (Just do me one favor, please hold the vuvuzelas.)