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Eliud Kipchoge returns with airport marathon win

Eliud Kipchoge

ENSCHEDE, NETHERLANDS - APRIL 18: Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya winner of the gold medal competes during the NN Mission Marathon held at Airport or Vliegveld Twente on April 18, 2021 in Enschede, Netherlands. NN Mission Marathon was first planned on 11 April in Hamburg. This one-off marathon will serve up a fast race to give athletes the best possible chance to secure a qualification mark for the rescheduled Olympic Games in Tokyo. Under the tagline ‘The fastest way to Tokyo’ the race, around a looped course, will attract around 70 invited elite athletes. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

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Eliud Kipchoge rebounded to win a specially held marathon at an airport, six months after the worst marathon of his unmatched career.

Kipchoge clocked 2:04:30 at Twente Airport in the Netherlands in an elite-only race that lacked the Kenyan’s top rivals on Sunday.

“It is mission accomplished,” Kipchoge said. “The race was really perfect. The NN Mission Marathon was a real test before Tokyo. It was so good a marathon happened a few months before the Olympics to test our fitness.”

The time is well off Kipchoge’s world record of 2:01:39 from the 2018 Berlin Marathon, and it’s the ninth-best time of his career. But it also would have been a fast enough time for Kipchoge to win his usual spring marathon, London, three of the last four years.

That includes the 2020 London Marathon, which was moved to Oct. 4 and shifted to a looped course due to the coronavirus pandemic. There, Kipchoge lost for the first time in seven years, ending a streak of 10 consecutive wins over 26.2 miles.

Kipchoge was eighth in that chilly race in 2:06:49 (67 seconds behind the winner), later citing a blockage in his right ear and leg and hip cramping.

His focus now shifts to the Olympic marathon in Sapporo on Aug. 8. Kipchoge, 36, will try to become the first runner to repeat as Olympic marathon champion in 41 years.

Kipchoge made the move to the marathon from the track after failing to make Kenya’s 2012 Olympic team. He has won 12 of his 14 marathons, plus run the only sub-two-hour marathon in history in a non-record-eligible event.

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