Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge has been dominating the world marathon stage since winning the Chicago Marathon in 2014. In the years following, the elite runner has won every marathon he has participated in, including the gold medal at the 2016 Summer Olympics. In 2018, Kipchoge made history when he crossed the finish line of the Berlin Marathon in 2:01:39, crushing the existing men’s world record by a minute and 18 seconds. On October 12, 2019, the 34-year-old further cemented his legacy by running the 26.2 miles in Vienna, Austria in less than two hours, faster than any other person in history. His time of 1:59:40 required him to maintain an average pace of about 4:35 per mile!
Upon crossing the finish line, Kipchoge, who spent four months training for the unprecedented run against the clock, said, “That was the best moment of my life. The pressure was very big on my shoulders. I got a phone call from the President of Kenya.”
Kipchoge’s sub-two-hour marathon attempt was planned with military precision. The Prater Park course in Vienna, Austria, was carefully selected, taking into account factors like temperature, humidity, wind speed, and elevation to ensure the perfect racing parameters. His speed was maintained by 41 medium-and long-distance runners. Sprinting in a v-shaped formation in alternating teams of seven, they also protected Kipchoge from the wind. An electric car, moving at the pace required to beat the two-hour time limit, followed closely behind the group. Kipchoge was equipped with the latest iteration of Nike’s ZoomX Vaporfly, which featured carbon fiber plating and extra cushioning. To save time, Kipchoge was fed pre-prepared drinks and energy and caffeine gels on the course at 3.1-mile intervals.
The historic run was Kipchoge’s second attempt at breaking the two-hour marathon barrier. The Kenyan runner first tried to accomplish the feat on May 6, 2017, at Nike’s Breaking2 event, which took place on a Formula One racetrack in Monza, Italy. However, while Kipchoge’s 2:00:25 time was the fastest ever attained by a human, it was not under the desired two hours.
Kipchoge’s record time, which tested the upper limits of human physical prowess, will not be recognized as an official world record by the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) for several reasons. The marathon was not approved by the IAAF and also not open to other athletes. Additionally, pacers are forbidden, and refreshments can only be taken at prefixed stations, not provided to the competitor while he/she is running.
The lack of acknowledgement does not bother Kipchoge. He says, “I am the happiest man in the world to be the first human to run under two hours, and I can tell people that no human is limited. I expect more people all over the world to run under two hours after today.”
Kipchoge was not the only Kenyan runner to make headlines that weekend. On Sunday, October 13, 2019, Brigid Kosgei made history of her own at the Chicago Marathon. Her time of 2:14:04 outpaced British runner Paula Radcliffe ‘s 16-year-old record by an impressive 81 seconds, earning Kosgei the title of the world’s fastest female marathoner!
Resources: NPR.org, standardmedia.co.ke, theguardian.com