Athletics News

Tigst Assefa smashes women’s world marathon record in Berlin with 2:11:53

Tigst Assefa smashes women's world marathon record in Berlin with 2:11:53

Ethiopian slices more than two minutes off Brigid Kosgei’s mark as Eliud Kipchoge wins men’s race in 2:02:42 and Charlotte Purdue goes No.2 on UK all-time rankings

It is 20 years since Paula Radcliffe smashed the women’s world marathon record with 2:15:25 in London. Described as a “quantum leap” in 2003, it stood the test of time for 16 years before Brigid Kosgei eventually improved it to an incredible 2:14:04 in Chicago.

Kosgei’s mark survived four years but on Sunday (Sept 24) it was decimated in Berlin as Tigst Assefa of Ethiopia ran more than two minutes quicker with 2:11:53.

If Radcliffe’s run represented a quantum leap then Assefa employed her warp drive boosters to take the marathon mark to the outer reaches of what the athletics universe believes is possible.

After passing halfway in 66:20 the 29-year-old simply got faster with a negative split of 65:33 to create history. Never mind the 2:14 and 2:13 barriers, Assefa skipped those and went straight for the jugular with a sub-2:12.

All of which meant Eliud Kipchoge’s fifth victory in the Berlin Marathon men’s race in a swift 2:02:42 was relegated to the second biggest story of the day.

Tigst Assefa (Getty)

In 2022 in Berlin, Assefa caused a big surprise when she won in 2:15:37 to go No.3 on the world all-time rankings. That run saw her improve her best from a modest 2:34:01 where she had finished seventh in the Riyadh Marathon six months earlier.

More remarkable was Assefa’s background as she had specialised in 800m before moving on to the roads, representing Ethiopia at the 2016 Rio Olympics on the track (she didn’t make it out of the heats) and with a two-lap best of 1:59.24 set in 2014. Prior to this she was better known as a 400m runner and clocked 54.05 for that distance in 2012.

Maybe that basic leg speed helped her handle the vicious pace in Berlin as she ticked off kilometre splits in the 3:10 range as she passed 5km in 15:59, 10km in 31:45 (15:46), 15km 47:26 (15:41), 20km 62:52 (15:26), 25km 78:40 (15:48), 30km 94:12 (15:32), 35km 1:49:41 (15:29) and 40km 2:05:13 (15:32) before running her final 2km at 3:03/km pace.

Significantly given her upbringing in Ethiopia, she ran quicker than national hero Abebe Bikila, the 1960 and 1964 Olympic champion, who ran a world record of 2:12:11 in 1964.

Tigst Assefa (adidas)

Berlin is a notoriously fast course featuring a combination of smooth, flat roads and invariably a great climate for marathon running at this time of year….

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