Brigid Kosgei, 25, of Kenya won the 2019 Chicago Marathon in 2:14:04 , besting a world record that has stood since 2003.
She went out at a blazing clip, clocking a 15:28 first 5K, which most spectators thought could result in a major blowup later in the race. Instead, Kosgei settled in behind two male pacemakers, consistently covering the next several 5K intervals at about 16 minutes apiece, averaging just faster than 5:07 per mile for 26.2 miles.
— Chicago Marathon (@ChiMarathon) October 13, 2019
The previous world record of 2:15:25 was held by Paula Radcliffe, set at the London Marathon 16 years ago. The IAAF, the governing body of the sport, recognizes two world records for women—one for women’s-only races and one for those set in races with men. Mary Keitany of Kenya owns the women’s-only mark, 2:17:01 set at the 2017 London Marathon.
At the post-race press conference, Kosgei, whose previous best time was 2:18:20, said she wasn’t expecting to go after the record, although she also wasn’t worried that her first 10K was too fast. She was merely following her pacer and trying to break away from the pack around her, she said.
“I never worried [about going out fast] during the race because there is a clock on the car,” she said. “When the pace was slow, I told the pacer to go a little bit. The pace clock was very helpful.”
Kosgei earns $100,000 for winning the race and receives a bonus of $75,000 for the course record, which was also held by Radcliffe (2:17:18). Kosgei came to Chicago as the defending champion and she is the 2019 London Marathon winner.
Ababel Yeshaneh of Ethiopia was second in 2:20:51 and Gelete Burka, also from Ethiopia, was third in 2:20:55.
It was a historic weekend all around for the marathon—and for Kenyan runners. On Saturday in Vienna, Eliud Kipchoge ran a race against the clock to become the first person to ever break two hours for 26.2 miles. He finished in 1:59:4o, though it was not eligible for a world record due to the help he received from pacers and other variables not allowed in official races. Kosgei said that Kipchoge’s big achievement inspired her.
“I kept saying, ‘tomorrow is my day,'” she said. “I wanted to be the second Kipchoge—the Kipchoge for women. I focused on that.”
Kipchoge and Kosgei both wore the Nike Vaporfly Next% shoe, which have a carbon fiber plate and midsole foam that research shows gives runners greater efficiency and advantage over those wearing other shoes.
Kosgei has never tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, but is represented by agent Frederico Rosa, who has also represented several other Kenyan athletes who have served doping suspensions, including 2016 Olympic marathon gold medalist Jemima Sumgong, who tested positive for EPO, as well as Rita Jeptoo, who was suspended for EPO as well. Jeptoo won the Chicago Marathon in 2014 (that result has been disqualified) and 2013, as well as the Boston Marathon in 2006, 2013, and 2014 (disqualified).
Kosgei told reporters she hasn’t trained in Jeptoo or Sumgong’s camp.
I asked Brigid Kosgei about the number of positive Kenyan doping tests, and what she would say to people who doubted if she was clean. She pointed out that she trained in a different camp to Kiprop, Sumgong, Jeptoo. Added: “Each and every person can run clean, we must work hard”
— Sean Ingle (@seaningle) October 13, 2019
The American women also had a stellar day, placing five in the top 10 of the race, led by Emma Bates who finished fourth with an almost three-minute personal best of 2:25:30. Stephanie Bruce was sixth, cutting about two minutes from her PR in 2:27:47. Lindsay Flanagan was seventh in 2:28:08, Laura Thweatt finished eighth (2:29:06), and Taylor Ward was 10th in 2:30:14.
Jordan Hasay, who had indicated she wanted to attempt the American record of 2:19:36, dropped out of the race at the 5K mark. Her agent, Ricky Simms, said she felt sharp pain in her hamstring at mile two. She stopped and tried to stretch, but was unable to continue after 5K. Two weeks ago, Hasay’s former coach, Alberto Salazar, received a four-year suspension for doping violations (he is appealing the decision with Nike’s support and denies the charges) and Nike announced on Thursday that the Oregon Project training group is shutting down. (Hasay has never been implicated in the case against her coach nor has she ever tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug.)
Among the other notable stats of the day: 45 American women ran faster than the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials “B” qualifying standard of 2:45, with twelve of them beating the “A” standard of 2:37. Some of the athletes had previously qualified for the trials, which will be held February 29, 2020, in Atlanta. So far 352 women have qualified for the race, where the top three finishers will go on to the 2020 Tokyo Games.