With metronomic precision, Eliud Kipchoge raced into history yesterday on the Hauptallee in Vienna by becoming the first man to achieve the barrier-breaking sub-two-hour marathon as part of the INEOS 1:59 Challenge.
The greatest marathon runner of all time, Kipchoge achieved a jaw-dropping time of 1:59:40.2 to secure his moon-landing moment.
He was supported by a world-class team, including an electric pace car, complete with futuristic lasers and a fabulous team of world-class pacesetters, featuring some of the best athletes in the world.
Dissecting the last great barrier in athletics with remarkable consistency – he completed 24km of the 42.2km distance in precisely the pre-designated pace of 2:50 – his slowest kilometre was 2:52 and his fastest 2:48.
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Calm and consistent
It was a performance which perfectly encapsulated Kipchoge the man – calm, consistent, patient and totally unflappable.
“This was the best moment of my life,” Kipchoge explained after the race. “From the first kilometre today, I was really comfortable. In my heart and my mind, I hoped to run under two hours and make history. I hoped to leave a positive message to the whole world that no human is limited.”
He admitted to facing the pressure. Calls from President Uhuru Kenyatta, plus tens of thousands of encouraging messages from around the world inevitably intensified expectation levels.
Yet, following 18 years of hard, consistent training under the tutelage of his coach and mentor, Patrick Sang, the wise management of Valentijn Trouw and the additional support of INEOS, he was able to achieve a moment in human history to match that of Sir Roger Bannister’s first sub-four-minute mile in 1954 and Neil Armstrong’s first moon-landing in 1969.
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“I was really calm, I just wanted to maintain the pace,” added Kipchoge whose wife, Grace and three children – Lynne, Griffin and Gordon – were watching him compete for the first time.
“I followed the instructions of the pacemakers. At 35km and 40km, my mind was focused on running. I did not think it was 50-50.”
Passing the halfway mark 10 seconds under the required pace ensured that there was no bleeding of time in the second half of the race, like Kipchoge had experienced in Monza when taking part in the Breaking2 project when he fell a tantalising 26 seconds shy of his goal.
Since that first sub-two-hour marathon attempt in May 2017, the 34-year-old has further cemented his status as the greatest marathoner in history. Last year, he obliterated the world marathon record with a stunning 2:01:39 clocking in Berlin. Earlier this year, he secured a record-breaking fourth London Marathon title.
Only a sub-two-hour marathon was missing from his incomparable CV.
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His consistency throughout a lengthy career has been mind-boggling. On the track, he won two Olympic 5000m crowns and a world title.
He has never remotely experienced a blip in his marathon career – yesterday was thankfully no off-day as acknowledged by a delighted Sir Jim Ratcliffe, the INEOS founder and chairman.
“I’m just glad he had a really good day. That last half a kilometre when the pace car was gone was just Eliud, it didn’t look like his feet were touching the ground; he looked so calm and tranquil,” he said.
Modest and showing typical humility, Kipchoge praised the key role the 41 pacesetters played in his success. He said they too had “bought into his dream” and the pacesetters too were humbled to have played their part in history.
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“Today is Kipchoge’s day, but everyone can come out to celebrate this moment. We are all part of history,” said two-time Olympian Lopez Lomong.
But the final word should go to Kipchoge, who celebrated wildly in the latter stages and after he crossed the line.
“Sport can help unify people. I wanted to sell that message to the whole world. Truly, no human is limited,” said Kipchoge.
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