Kenya’s Brigid Kosgei Breaks Marathon World Record in Chicago

A record that seemed untouchable for years fell in 2:14:04. The run whacked 81 seconds off the previous women’s mark. 

By Matthew Futterman and Talya Minsberg

This city lived up to its billing as host of America’s fastest major marathon on Sunday as Brigid Kosgei of Kenya set a women’s world record.

A day after Eliud Kipchoge broke the two-hour barrier for the 26.2-mile distance, albeit in an event that did not count as a world record, his countrywoman Kosgei shattered Paula Radcliffe’s world marathon record, which no woman had come close to in the past 16 years.

The two achievements made the weekend one of the most memorable in the modern history of long-distance running, with Kenya asserting its supremacy as the heartbeat of the sport, in case there was any doubt.

Kosgei said she had Kipchoge on her mind ever since she saw that he ran a marathon in Vienna on Saturday morning in the once-inconceivable time of 1 hour 59 minutes 40 seconds.

“I kept saying, ‘Tomorrow is my day,’” she said. “I wanted to be the second Kipchoge — the Kipchoge for women. I focused on that.”

Kosgei even made a last-minute decision to switch her shoes to match the ones Kipchoge ran in, the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT%. She had planned on wearing an earlier version of the Nike Vaporfly shoe.

Kosgei, who also won in Chicago last year, ran 2:14:04 on Sunday. Radcliffe ran 2:15:25 at the 2003 London Marathon, and the record had long seemed untouchable. For years, she was the only woman to have run a marathon in under 2 hours 17 minutes. Not only did Kosgei run under 2:15, she was close to breaking 2:14. And at age 25, she could have a long career in front of her.

“I was not expecting this,” Kosgei said of the world record. “I was expecting to run 2:16 or 2:17. It’s amazing to run 2:14, but the world record was in my head. When I started the race, I was thinking I need 2:15 for Paula’s record.”

Organizers had their eyes on Kosgei all week. She had run a blazing half-marathon at the Great North Run in September in northern England, where she finished in 1:04:28. She also won the 2019 London Marathon with a time of 2: 18:20. She ran the second half of that race in a searing 66:42.

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