CHICAGO — 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 one had come close to in the past 16 years.
The two achievements made the weekend one of the most memorable ones 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 the 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, 25, who was the defending champion in Chicago, ran 2:14:04, smashing Radcliffe’s best by 81 seconds.
“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.
On Sunday, Kosgei ran the first half in 66:59 and never looked back. She had planned to run the first half in 68 minutes, but on a cool, breezy day near Lake Michigan, Kosgei jumped at the opportunity.
“People were cheering, you are running the world record! World record!” she said. “I felt their energy, and they inspired me.”
It was the fifth world record set at the Chicago Marathon, and the first since Radcliffe set a world record here in 2002.
“She was on an amazing trajectory, and she just stayed on that course,” Carey Pinkowski, the race director, said of Kosgei. “ She was very relaxed all week.”
Ababel Yeshaneh and Gelete Burka, both of Ethiopia, finished second and third on Sunday. Yeshaneh’s time was 2:20:51, and Burka’s was 2:20:55. Lawrence Cherono won the men’s race in 2:05:45. Ethiopia’s Dejene Debela was second in 2:05:46 and Asefa Mengstu was third in 2:05:48.
When it was over, Kosgei was at a loss for words.
“I don’t know how to explain how it feels to run a world record,” Kosgei said. “I am so happy.”