Ethiopia's Tigist Assefa set a women's world record of 2 hours 1imin 53sec at the Berlin Marathon today ©Getty Images

Tigist Assefa retained her Berlin Marathon title in stupendous fashion today as she shattered the women's world record, clocking 2 hours 11min 53sec after Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge had earned a record fifth men's title in 2:02:42.

If the 29-year-old Ethiopian, who took up road running in 2018, created a stir last year in knocking 18 minutes off her personal best, her performance a year on was positively seismic as she took more than two minutes off the previous mark of 2:14:04 set by Kenya's Brigid Kosgei at the 2019 Chicago Marathon.

The former 800 metres runner's winning time in Berlin last year of 2:15:17 was then the third fastest ever recorded; now she has set the 13th world record to be witnessed in this race.

Not bad for someone who only took up marathon running last year.

"I didn't expect to run this fast, that is to say to break 2:12, but it is the result of hard work," said Assefa.

"As for being now a favourite for the Olympic marathon next year, it is up to the national committee to select me for the team."

Assefa's 800 metres career offered no obvious pointers to her potential as a marathon runner.

In 2014 she was fourth in the African Championships and in the International Association of Athletics Associations Continental Cup, both held in Marrakesh, Morocco.

Two years later, she was eliminated in the first round at the World Indoor Championships in Portland, Oregon and in the heats at the Rio 2016 Olympics.

Eliud Kipchoge earned a record fifth men's title at today's Berlin Marathon ©Getty Images
Eliud Kipchoge earned a record fifth men's title at today's Berlin Marathon ©Getty Images

She made her marathon debut in Riyadh in March 2022, finishing seventh in 2:34:01.

Six months later in Berlin she took a huge step forward in terms of achievement to run a time that had only been bettered by Kosgei and the former world record holder, Britain’s Paula Radcliffe, who ran 2:15:25 in the 2003 London Marathon.

Assefa finished almost six minutes clear of the second runner home, Kenya’s 2022 Commonwealth bronze medallist Sheila Chepkirui, who clocked 2:17:49, with Tanzania’s Magdalena Shauri third in 2:18:41 and Ethiopia’s Zeineba Yimer and Senbere Teferi fourth and fifth in 2:19:07 and 2:19:21 respectively.

Kipchoge had identified this race as an ideal step towards his goal of becoming the first athlete to win three Olympic marathon titles - something he will seek to do at the Paris 2024 Games.

Although he was not able to get close to the world record of 2:01:09 he set on the same course last year, the 38-year-old Kenyan, who had won in Berlin in 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2022, duly registered a victory that took him beyond the previous record of four titles set by celebrated runner Haile Gebrselassie between 2006 and 2009.

He ran alone from 32 kilometres (20 miles) onward, slowing slightly toward the end, and was followed home by two debutants - fellow Kenyan Vincent Kipkemboi, who clocked 2:03:13, and Ethiopia’s Tadese Takele, who recorded 2:03:24.

Kipchoge’s compatriot Amos Kipruto, last year’s London Marathon champion, was expected to offer the defending champion the sternest resistance today but he finished seventh in 2:04:49.

Amanal Petros broke the German record as he ran 2:04.58 to finish ninth.

"I always learn from every race and every victory," said Kipchoge, who made it clear he was still a runner to be feared after struggling home sixth in his first Boston Marathon in April suffering from leg pains.  

"I'm very happy to win for the fifth time in Berlin.  

"And I shall use these lessons in my preparation for the Olympics."

As race organisers had expected, the German Letzte (Last) Generation climate action group went ahead with targeting the race, which almost failed to get underway on time when protestors invaded the start area and threw orange paint on the ground.

"Because there seems to be confusion: yes we will interrupt the Berlin marathon," the group had said in a statement. 

"We can't run away from the climate catastrophe."

For more on why so many world records have been set and broken at the Berlin Marathon, click here.