After around 12 kilometers remaining, Kipchoge pulled away from the top group and crossed the finish line in two hours, eight minutes and 38 seconds – more than a minute ahead of Dutchman Abdi Nageeye in second and Belgian Bashir Abdi in third .
With victory in Sunday’s race, the 36-year-old Kenyan was the third man to successfully defend an Olympic marathon title.
Kipchoge’s win completed a marathon double for Kenya after Peres Jepchirchir won women’s gold the day before. He also follows in the footsteps of Ethiopian Abebe Bikila and East German Waldemar Cierpinski as successive Olympic marathon champions.
“I wanted to create a space (between the other runners) to show the world that this is a nice race,” said the 36-year-old Kipchoge later. “I wanted to show that we have hope for the future.”
The marathon and running races were relocated to Sapporo 500 miles north of Tokyo to escape the heat of the Japanese capital, but runners were still battling difficult conditions with temperatures approaching 30 degrees Celsius and humidity of 80%.
Of the 106 runners who started the race, 30 did not finish.
“We were all on the same frying pan and that’s competition,” said Kipchoge of the hot weather – after running the five-kilometer distance between the 30-35 km markers in 14:28 to break away from the field and establish an unassailable trail.
A second marathon gold medal cemented Kipchoge’s status as the greatest runner of all time over 42.2 miles. as part of the INEOS 1:59 Challenge in 2019.
Kipchoge has now won 13 of the 15 major marathons he has competed in since he took part in the distance in 2013.
“Eliud Kipchoge is the greatest of all time … in EVERY sport,” wrote performance trainer and author Steve Magness on Twitter. “His dominance in an important sport of modern times is unparalleled.”
Silver medalist Nageeye crossed the finish line in a time of 2:09:58, two seconds ahead of his training partner Abdi, whom he and fourth-placed Lawrence Cherono pushed across the line in a sprint finish.
“I’ve said so many times that I want to get into the top three, but I never made it. So today I just focused. Focus, focus, focus,” said Nageeye.
“When I reached 39km, I just knew I was going to win a medal. With 3km to go, I felt really light. I knew I only had nine minutes. It’s amazing.”