Recalling Paul Tergat’s remarkable honour as first man to go sub 2:05

Saturday, September 30th, 2023 12:14 | By
Kenya's retired distance runner Paul Tergat. PHOTO/World Athletics
Kenya's retired distance runner Paul Tergat. PHOTO/World Athletics

Paul Tergat is arguably one of the greatest runners Kenya has ever produced over time, and it was his performance in Berlin two decades ago that confirmed his place as a superstar.

In 2003, Tergat secured his place as one of the all-time greats of the distance running game. He made his mark in the German capital by producing a boundary-breaking victory.

Tergat's greatest moment

Then, he enjoyed a great pace making by his training partners, Sammy Korir and Titus Munji, and the three were coached by Gabriele Rosa, an Italian marathon and sports physiology guru.

In a race that turned out to be Tergat's greatest moment in history, the trio reached halfway in 63:01 and were accompanied through 25km (1:14.42) by their compatriot Raymond Kipkoech. However, Kipkoech, a 2002 Berlin winner, faded when Tergat hit the front and pushed the pace for the first time, eventually finishing fifth in 2:06:47.

Tergat, Munji, and Korir were toe-to-toe as they passed 30km in 1:29:24 and 35km in 1:43:59, but as they stretched past the 36km mark, Korir surged and Munji dropped, and he eventually finished third in 2:06:15.

With one kilometre to go, Tergat injected pace as he showed resilience and tenacity to beat Korir, who was equally fighting hard.

He held his breath, gave a few wary glances over his right shoulder as he passed through the Brandenburg Gate to win the race, and also entered history books as the first man to break the 2:05 barrier in the marathon.

Kenya's retired distance runner Paul Tergat. PHOTO/World Athletics

Breaking tape

Tergat broke the tape at the finish line in 2:04:55, and Korir was just a second behind in 2:04:56.

“I have to thank Sammy and Titus. They have helped me achieve this world record.

“In the morning, when it was clear we would have perfect weather conditions, we decided to go for the world record. Although they were the pacemakers, I expected that they would run the whole race.

“I think today we got the maximum result that was possible for us. In the future, I might perhaps be able to run something like 2:04:30. But I don’t expect to be able to run a 2:03 marathon," Tergat said then, as quoted by World Athletics.

Khalid Khannouchi of the USA set the previous record of 2:05:38 in London, in which Tergat managed to get the better of Gebrselassie. The Kenyan was runners-up as he finished in 2:05:48, while Gebrselassie, in what was his debut marathon, came in third in 2:06:35.

It was Tergat’s third marathon and third second-place finish, as he had made his debut in London the previous year, in April 2001, and finished as runner-up in 2:08:15 to Moroccan Abdelkader El Mouaziz (2:07:11).

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