The ‘impossible’ record Eliud Kipchoge hopes to break in Vienna and why it matters


The ‘impossible’ record Eliud Kipchoge hopes to break in Vienna and why it matters
Athletics - London Marathon - London, Britain - April 28, 2019 Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge celebrates winning the men's elite race REUTERS/Paul Childs

In Summary

  • This is not about winning, it is about beating his own record and at the same time breaking through a time barrier never before thought possible.
  • In Monza, Italy two years ago, Kipchoge attempted to break the 2-hour barrier but failed in his bid to complete the first sub-two hour marathon by an excruciating 25 seconds during the Nike Breaking 2 race.
  • He then teamed up with INEOS, one of the world’s largest manufacturing companies operating across 171 sites in 24 countries around the world and revived his bid for history.

The world’s greatest marathoner to ever walk, scratch that, run on the face of the earth is up to some more history making. This time, the legend is not competing against mortal men, that’s beneath him, he is running against time.

This is not about winning, it is about beating his own record and at the same time breaking through a time barrier never before thought possible.

But what is impossible to a king running against himself? Other humans push boundaries but a god looks at those boundaries and spits with contempt.

On October 12, the man who runs like the wind, Eliud Kipchoge, wants to break the last barrier in modern athletics; the 2-hour marathon. Only 26 seconds stands between Kipchoge and history.

In Monza, Italy two years ago, Kipchoge attempted to break the 2-hour barrier but failed in his bid to complete the first sub-two hour marathon by an excruciating 25 seconds during the Nike Breaking 2 race.

But it will not be an easy feat even for a man who won the human gene Olympics. Kipchoge needs to run 26 seconds faster than he did in the Nike Breaking 2 event in Monza in 2017. That is 0.36 per cent faster over the course of the 42 kilometers.

On the glass is half full side of things, Kipchoge managed to run the fastest ever marathon in Monza.

He did not stew too much on the Monza race, he went on to run the second fastest marathon in history to win the London Marathon on April 28, for a fourth time.

Kipchoge, 34, who broke the world record in Berlin in 2018 won the marathon in two hours two minutes 38 seconds.

He then teamed up with INEOS, one of the world’s largest manufacturing companies operating across 171 sites in 24 countries around the world and revived his bid for history.

“Our ambition is that this 1:59 Challenge will also inspire future generations to get running and to get fit for life…,” they say on their company website. “Never tell us something can’t be done.”

But why Vienna?

INEOS says these are the reasons:

In terms of geography, Vienna is ideally situated. The Austrian capital may be 8,754.6km away from Kenya but it is just one hour behind Kipchoge’s Kaptagat home time zone – which means his sleeping, eating and training patterns should not be greatly affected by the location.

Climatically too it is ideal. Vienna is 165m above sea level and thus able to provide far greater oxygen availability than the 2,400m altitude of Kipchoge’s training camp in Kenya.

After extensive research into historic weather patterns of the city, the INEOS 1:59 Challenge team found there is a high probability of it providing low morning temperatures (Kipchoge has expressed a desire to start the race early to match the time of his hard training sessions in Kenya). Combined with its low relative humidity, this is exactly what Kipchoge is after.

The proposed race track’s desirability is the long, straight and historic stretch of road called the Hauptallee. This avenue that runs through the heart of The Prater has minimal elevation change and could offer a 4.3 kilometre stretch between two roundabouts, thus creating a 9.6km circuit – perfect for the multi-lap course that was being sought – of which 90 per cent is straight.

Finally there was capacity to bring a large crowd to watch along the route- something very high up on the wishlist of Kipchoge himself – and the city of Vienna’s administration were excited about supporting this and sharing the historical moment with its 1.9 million inhabitants.

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Story By Philip Mwaniki
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