On the stillest of Berlin mornings, a tsunami of a performance. It came from Ethiopia’s Tigist Assefa, who over 26.2 astonishing miles redefined what many thought was possible in the women’s marathon, as she blew the world record to smithereens in a time of 2 hours 11 mins and 53 secs.
The fact that the 29-year-old Ethiopian shattered the previous best, set by Brigid Kosgei in 2019, by two minutes and 11 seconds was remarkable enough. Yet the way she powered home through the Brandenburg Gate, suggested that she could go even quicker still.
It was also a victory that will reignite the supershoe wars. For on Assefa’s feet were the new Adizero Adios Pro Evo 1s, which Adidas claims are “enhanced with unique technology that challenges the boundaries of racing”. Whatever the veracity of those claims, the shoes – which go on sale for a princely sum of £400 on Tuesday – will surely now have plenty of takers, even at their eye-watering price.
In the build-up to Berlin, which along with Valencia is considered the quickest course on the circuit, most of the focus had been on whether the legendary Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge could break his men’s world record. But while he won his fifth Berlin title by 31 seconds in 2:02:42, the fifth-fastest time of his illustrious career, this day was all about Assefa.
For the first third of the women’s race, a group of 12 were all running under world record pace. But when Assefa pushed the tempo up a notch between eight and 10 miles, she found herself with only her pacemakers for company.
The halfway split was reached in 1:06:20, putting her on track to smash the world record by more than a minute. Yet she was even quicker in the second half as she powered into the history books.
What made Assefa’s performance more remarkable was that she only ran her first marathon last year, with a modest time of 2:34:01 in Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, due to health issues.
However a shock win at the 2022 Berlin marathon in 2:15:37 – then the third fastest ever – better indicated what was to come.
“I think this is the result of hard work over the last year,” said Assefa, who also represented Ethiopia at the 2016 Rio Olympics over 800 metres before switching to the roads in 2018. “I wanted to break the record but that was not expected.”
Meanwhile Kipchoge had looked on course to break his men’s world record of 2:01:09 as he went halfway in 60:22. However he slowed down significantly in the second half of the race.
“I had some hiccups, but it is the nature of the race,” he explained. “I was expecting to break the record but it did not come. But that is how sport is. Every race is a learning lesson.”