Eliud Kipchoge breaking 2 has made him the new face of running. By that, I do not mean that he has been blessed with the kind of talent that has defined and enabled his career so far. Instead, he has had the good fortune to be raised in Kenya in a time—and place—that offers him an opportunity for success.
Greatness can come from anywhere.
Kipchoge is a long way from Eldoret, the northern Kenyan town where he grew up and first learned to run over his family farm’s rolling hills. There’s no direct route from Eldoret to St Peter’s College Juniors, the elementary school in the Nyeri district that houses Kenya’s national athletics center. And those hills on Kipchoge’s family farm were grueling enough for a nine-year-old boy. But further east lay Mount Kenya, part of which could be seen from Kipchoge’s home. The mountain is 21,000ft high and lies about 100 miles away from Eldoret.
And in May of 2017, thousands of miles away from home, Eliud Kipchoge came up just shy of a two-hour marathon during Nike’s Breaking2 project, finishing with a time of 2:00:25 at a racetrack in Monza, Italy. Throughout the race, he ran alongside his Nike teammates, who acted as pacemakers, and Italian Olympian Zersenay Tadese, who started the race with the goal of beating the current half marathon world record time.
Supported by scientists from around the world and equipped with advanced running apparel and footwear, the athletes embarked on a monastic training regimen to optimize their human potential.
Going places at paces never before seen.
Undeterred by the inevitable, the greatest marathon runner of all time persevered. And a short time later, in a race that cemented his place among the world’s best runners, Kipchoge ran a sizzling personal best of 02:01:39. Knocking more than two minutes and a half off the previous world record of 02:02.57, set in Berlin in 2014 by Dennis Kimetto.
Running solo after his last pacer fell off the blistering pace halfway (1:01:06), Kipchoge’s maintained the pace with a fierce focus to set the official world record that has eluded him throughout his remarkable career.
And the finishing kick that Kipchoge ran for the roughly final 2000 meters is the fastest known finish in any major marathon. Oustanding for the gentlemen competitor who seemed to hold pace as others that day and before could not.
Not only does he train in hot weather at elevation to give himself an edge, but he also smokes cigars after a race. You have to listen to his interview with Joe Rogan to understand why. The point is, he loves being in pain and has talked about it since before his first big win in 2003.
Eliud Kipchoge captures lightning.
And only two short years later, after the failed attempt, the Kenyan raced through a Vienna track with impeccable pacing to break a barrier once believed to be unattainable.
In a race for the ages. A different version of athletic competition. Not against one another. It was a vindication of a collaborative pursuit of the human body and perhaps even our limits as well. And it all was happening on that day with each stride Kipchoge took.
So when Kipchoge pounded his chest twice as he crossed the finish line in Vienna’s leafy Prater Park, he was lifted into the air by his team members. Among them, the many professional runners who helped set the early pace. And ultimately guide him through the monumental effort.
But his 1:59:40, will not be ratified as a world record because of the specialized circumstances. But we know it happened.
In his lungs and legs
Efficient long-distance running should be viewed as a combination of metabolic and mechanical traits, working together to enable an athlete to become proficient at their sport, say researchers. Many elite runners have enhanced metabolic features that allow them to be more economical at higher steady state running speeds, say the researchers.
Professor Andrew Jones, of the University of Exeter, said the findings reveal that elite marathon runners must have a “perfect balance” of VO2 max (rate of oxygen uptake), efficiency of movement, and a high “lactate turn point” (above which the body experiences more fatigue).University of Exeter
For athletes like Kipchoge, who train so hard that their bodies and minds are pushed to their limits, hitting a wall is never far away.
That feels like running with a return.
VO2 peak measures the highest volume of oxygen that an athlete can use in one minute when all systems go. Lactate threshold is the speed at which an athlete’s muscles begin to fatigue and burn out. Running economy is the amount of oxygen needed to maintain a given pace.
So to manage an assault on the 2-hour marathon, Eliud Kipchoge breaking 2 required Nike researchers to simultaneously predict, challenge, and technologically supplement a group of elite athletes’ innate abilities.
Nike played an Oscar-worthy supporting role in the most significant distance-running achievements of Eliud Kipchoge. According to a 2017 peer-reviewed study, an elite athlete can run 3.5 percent faster with the Vaporfly 4 percent shoes.
To the impossible once again.
And the historical and innovative perspective that comes with owning the fastest official and unofficial marathon times is not lost on Kipchoge.
“After Roger Bannister in 1954, it took another 63 years, I tried, and I did not get it, I want to inspire many people that no human is limited.”Eliud Kipchoge
Like Sir Roger Bannister before him, perhaps his most remarkable achievements will come after the track.