Why Everyone Is Obsessed With Eliud Kipchoge’s Bottle Man, the True Hero of Berlin
If you tuned in to watch Eliud Kipchoge break his own world record in 2:01:09 at the Berlin Marathon early Sunday morning, you might have noticed the particularly enthusiastic cyclist who personally handed the champion runner each of his bottles at the 13 aid stations—and celebrated each successful hand-off with an emphatic fist pump.
That’s Claus Henning-Schulke, a 56-year-old amateur triathlete who has volunteered for the Berlin Marathon since 1998 and is the senior member of the crew in charge of providing bottles to the elite athletes. He’s provided personal bottle service for Kipchoge three times, including his 2018 world record.
“You have to imagine they are running along with more than 20 km per hour [sic]. You have to keep eye contact. Does he see me? I shouted at him because he was moving in an inner tunnel. Then you present the bottle to him. He grabs it and the handing of the bottle has worked. It makes me happy every time,” he says. “Then you have to rush to your bike and sprint to the next water station 5km away, passing all kinds of lead trucks and bikes, meaning you have to ride about 40 km [per] hour and then start the same procedure over again.
“After the race, I am quite exhausted,” he says.
At his day job, Henning-Schulke is a project manager for a construction company. He ran marathons in his twenties (and owns a personal best of 2:34) before switching to triathlons.
After running 2:01:39 to set the world record in 2018, Kipchoge gave Henning-Schulke his race bib with a special message on it: “Dear Claus, without you I would not have managed to run this world record.”
Kipchoge, now 37, remembers the enthusiastic bottle man as a key part of his world record run, calling him “my hero.”
“My biggest remembrance of Berlin is the guy who was handing me water, still my hero up to now. The way he was handling and acting and talking was unbelievable,” Kipchoge said.