What we learned: Marathon highlights from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

SAPPORO, JAPAN - AUGUST 07:  Athletes compete in the Women's Marathon Final on day fifteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Sapporo Odori Park on August 07, 2021 in Sapporo, Japan. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
SAPPORO, JAPAN - AUGUST 07: Athletes compete in the Women's Marathon Final on day fifteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Sapporo Odori Park on August 07, 2021 in Sapporo, Japan. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

Find your top moments, replays of two golden runs, and more from marathon competitions in 2021 here, plus look forward to Paris 2024.

The marathon races at Tokyo 2020, in 2021 saw confirmed three important details about long distance running:

The first, that Eliud Kipchoge has achieved legendary status in athletics.

The second, Peres Jepchirchir is the real deal.

The third, Kenya remains a marathon runner producing powerhouse.

Outside of the particulars of who prevailed and how, the men’s marathon race also showed us that even in the most gruelling of conditions and under the most intense physical pressures the Olympic spirit shines, while the women's race reminded us that sometimes marathons can also deliver surprises.

Read on for the top marathon moments, highlights, and where you can watch replays from Tokyo 2020 free and on-demand. Or find the key moments from the rest of the athletics events here.

Eliud Kipchoge: Inside the mind of the world record holder
03:03

Marathon world record holder Eliud Kipchoge does not believe in limits. The Kenyan's mantra? "No human is limited." We sat down with the Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020 Olympic champion to talk about his philosophy.

Top 5 marathon moments at Tokyo 2020

These are the key talking points from the men's and women's marathon races, run over 42.195km (26 miles 385 yards) in Sapporo Odori Park. For other top athletics moments at Tokyo 2020, click here.

Men's Marathon - Athletics | Tokyo 2020 Replays
03:21:35

This event took place on 08/08/2021 around the Sapporo Odori Park. Kipchoge (KEN) claimed Gold, Nageeye (NED) Silver and Abdi (BEL) completed the podium

1- Eliud Kipchoge: King of the marathon

In defending his title Eliud Kipchoge joins an elite group of runners who have successfully managed to attain back-to-back Olympic golds.

The only two others who have managed the feat at the Olympics are 1960 and 1964 champion Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia and East German Waldemar Cierpinski, who won in Montreal 1976 and Moscow 1980.

In a perfectly executed men's race, the Kenyan broke away on his own at the 31 kilometre mark and never looked back.

Such was Kipchoge’s dominance in securing his second Olympic gold that he won the race by a margin of 1:20, the widest in an Olympic marathon since 1972. He crossed the line in a sizzling 2:08:38.

Women's Marathon - Athletics | Tokyo 2020 Replays
03:42:26

This event took place on 07/08/2021 around the Sapporo Odori Park. Jepchirchir (KEN) claimed Gold, Kosgei (KEN) Silver and Seidel (USA) completed the podium

2- Gold on Olympic debut for Jepchirchir

There were early signs that Peres Jepchirchir might upset current world record holder Brigid Kosgei in the women’s marathon race in Japan.

The two-time world half marathon champion had qualified for her first Olympics after storming the Valencia Marathon in 2020 in a time of 2:17:16 – the fastest of the year.

In the race, the Kenyan – like her competitors - endured soaring heat which peaked at 31 degrees Celsius with 78 per cent humidity.

At the 40 kilometre mark Jepchirchir sensed Kosgei was struggling, and pushed onwards to finish the race 16 seconds ahead of her teammate and claim her first Olympic gold medal on her debut.

SAPPORO, JAPAN - AUGUST 07:  Peres Jepchirchir of Team Kenya celebrates as she crosses the finish line to win the gold medal in the Women's Marathon Final on day fifteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Sapporo Odori Park on August 7, 2021 in Sapporo, Japan. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
SAPPORO, JAPAN - AUGUST 07: Peres Jepchirchir of Team Kenya celebrates as she crosses the finish line to win the gold medal in the Women's Marathon Final on day fifteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Sapporo Odori Park on August 7, 2021 in Sapporo, Japan. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
2021 Getty Images

3- Olympic spirit shines until the very last

In the dying stages of the men’s marathon race there was a touching moment of sportsmanship, when second placed Dutch runner Abdi Nageeye encouraged an exhausted Bashir Abdi of Belgium to secure a podium finish.

Turning to look behind him, Nageeye could see Abdi and Kenya’s Lawrence Cherono battling it out for the bronze.

The Dutchman began to urge his training partner Abdi to kick on ahead of his Kenyan rival, constantly turning over his shoulder and waving his hand.

Finding his very last ounce of strength, Abdi responded and surged past Cherono to take the final medal available.

Negeeye and Abdi embraced on the finish line in joy at what they had both just achieved.

SAPPORO, JAPAN - AUGUST 08: Silver medalist Abdi Nageeye of Team Netherlands hugs bronze medalist Bashir Abdi of Team Belgium after competing in the Men's Marathon Final on day sixteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Sapporo Odori Park on August 08, 2021 in Sapporo, Japan. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
SAPPORO, JAPAN - AUGUST 08: Silver medalist Abdi Nageeye of Team Netherlands hugs bronze medalist Bashir Abdi of Team Belgium after competing in the Men's Marathon Final on day sixteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Sapporo Odori Park on August 08, 2021 in Sapporo, Japan. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
2021 Getty Images

4- Molly Seidel: the surprise package

In just her third ever marathon Molly Seidel of the United States surprised many when she crossed the line in third in the women’s marathon race.

The 27-year-old, who kept pace with both Kosgei and Jepchirchir throughout the race, is now the third American woman ever to medal in the event.

The last to achieve the feat was Deena Kastor back in Athens 2004.

SAPPORO, JAPAN - AUGUST 07:  Molly Seidel of Team United States reacts after winning the bronze medal in the Women's Marathon Final on day fifteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Sapporo Odori Park on August 07, 2021 in Sapporo, Japan. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
SAPPORO, JAPAN - AUGUST 07: Molly Seidel of Team United States reacts after winning the bronze medal in the Women's Marathon Final on day fifteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Sapporo Odori Park on August 07, 2021 in Sapporo, Japan. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
2021 Getty Images

5- Seasons bests when it mattered

Even in the face of the sweltering conditions in Sapporo, the Olympic marathon runners stepped up to deliver.

Five of the six podium finishers across both the men’s and women’s races laid down season best performances in Japan.

SAPPORO, JAPAN - AUGUST 07:  Gold medalist Peres Jepchirchir of Team Kenya, silver medalist Brigid Kosgei of Team Kenya and bronze medalist Molly Seidel of Team United States pose for photos after finishing the Women's Marathon Final on day fifteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Sapporo Odori Park on August 7, 2021 in Sapporo, Japan. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
SAPPORO, JAPAN - AUGUST 07: Gold medalist Peres Jepchirchir of Team Kenya, silver medalist Brigid Kosgei of Team Kenya and bronze medalist Molly Seidel of Team United States pose for photos after finishing the Women's Marathon Final on day fifteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Sapporo Odori Park on August 7, 2021 in Sapporo, Japan. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
2021 Getty Images

One last look

Is Eliud Kipchoge the greatest of all time?

After defending his crown in Tokyo, the list of reasons why the Kenyan should be considered as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, marathon runner of all time only grows.

At 36-years-old, Kipchoge is not a young gun; at this year’s Games only 11 of the 115 runners entering were older.

Yet still Kipchoge prevailed in style, adding another Olympic gold to a portfolio that contains an official world record (2:01:39), a 10-race unbeaten streak over a five-year stretch, and his amazing effort to become the first human to run the marathon distance in under two-hours at a special event in Vienna.

SAPPORO, JAPAN - AUGUST 08: Eliud Kipchoge of Team Kenya celebrates after winning the gold medal in the Men's Marathon Final on day sixteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Sapporo Odori Park on August 08, 2021 in Sapporo, Japan. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
SAPPORO, JAPAN - AUGUST 08: Eliud Kipchoge of Team Kenya celebrates after winning the gold medal in the Men's Marathon Final on day sixteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Sapporo Odori Park on August 08, 2021 in Sapporo, Japan. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
2021 Getty Images

Hello Paris 2024

In an Olympic first, members of the public will be allowed to run the marathon course at Paris 2024.

The Olympic runners will be sent off at a different time to the runners, and the amateurs cannot win a medal as only those who have qualified for the Games can.

The idea behind it is to try and encourage mass participation in the Olympics.

Will we see the Tokyo medallists try to add to their hauls?

When and where to watch marathon race replays on Olympics.com

The answer is: olympics.com/tokyo2020-replays

When will gold medallists Eliud Kipchoge and Peres Jepchirchir compete next?

The next Marathon Major will take place on 26th September 2021 in Berlin, Germany.

The 2021 London Marathon will take place in October, and could also feature a strong line-up.

Full medals list for marathon at Tokyo 2020 in 2021

Women’s event

Gold: Peres Jepchirchir (KEN)

Silver: Bridgid Kosgei (KEN)

Bronze: Molly Seidel (USA)

Men’s event

Gold: Eliud Kipchoge (KEN)

Silver: Abdi Nageeye (NED)

Bronze: Abdi Bashir (BEL)

Tokyo 2020: Highlights from the final day of the Games
03:26

Arigato Tokyo! A wrap of the action as the Closing Ceremony marks the farewell to the Games, Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge gives a masterclass in marathon running and super heavyweight joy for Uzbekistan. All that plus cycling, basketball and water polo.