He did it brilliantly and standing up for freedom in front of the the whole world.
RIO DE JANEIRO — The favorite Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya won the men’s Olympic marathon on Sunday, drawing away over the final four miles to win in 2 hours 8 minutes 44 seconds.
Feyisa Lilesa of Ethiopia took second in 2:09:54, while Galen Rupp of the United States won the bronze medal in 2:10:05, his personal best.
Kenya swept both marathons at the Rio Games. Jemima Sumgong won the women’s 26.2-mile race, becoming the first Kenyan woman to win a gold medal in the event.
At 35 kilometers, or 21.7 miles, of the men’s race, Kipchoge held a lead of only one second over Lilesa and Rupp. Rupp seemed in position to perhaps become the first American man to win the Olympic marathon since Frank Shorter in 1972.
But this was only the second marathon run by Rupp, who made his debut at the Olympic trials in February. He had finished fifth in the 10,000 meters in Rio after winning a silver medal in the event at the 2012 London Olympics. Maybe running two races here took some endurance out of his legs. Sunday, he began to fall back.
At one point, Kipchoge motioned to Lilesa to help him share the lead. Lilesa would not or could not. And so Kipchoge drew away, winning by more than a minute and making his claim as the greatest marathon runner ever.
In April, he had come within eight seconds of the world record at the London Marathon, running his personal best of 2:03:05 on a cool, blustery day. Last fall, while winning the Berlin Marathon, Kipchoge might have set the world record, but the insoles came out of his Nike shoes.
There was no chance of a world record at the Olympic marathon, which lacked pacesetters and had some sharp turns. The temperature was in the 70s on a drizzly, humid morning.
At the halfway point, a group of two dozen runners was within the lead at 1:05:55. But the lead pack was down to nine runners at 30 kilometers (18.6 miles). By 20½ miles, the race was left to Kipchoge, Lilesa and Rupp to decide the medals.