On October 12, 2019, Eluid Kipchoge became the first person in history to run a marathon, 26.2 miles, in under 2 hours. He crossed the finish line, smiling and waving at the crowd that had lined the course in Vienna, in 1 hour 59 minutes and 40 seconds. This amazing accomplishment, once thought impossible, stunned not only the world of running but also the entire athletic community. Kipchoge’s run symbolized his motivation, the message he has been working to share with the entire world, that no human is limited.
“Personally, I don’t believe in limits.”-Eluid Kipchoge
History of the Marathon
The marathon is one of the most well known races, respected by athletes and fans alike, and symbolizing the incredible history of the Olympic Games. The idea for a marathon was inspired by a messenger’s 25 mile run in 490 B.C. to relay the news of a Greek victory over the Persian army. After his long run, the messenger died, and the race distance was set to 25 miles in the 1896 Olympics to commemorate his epic journey.
The standard 26.2 mile race we know today was introduced during the London Olympic Games in 1908, when Queen Elizabeth requested the race start on the lawn at Windsor Castle. To reach the traditional finish at the Olympic stadium, the race was extended to 26.2 miles, and thousands of races of the same distance have been run in the 112 years that followed Queen Elizabeth’s request. Incredible races and times have been run, and as athletes grew stronger, many became close to finishing before 2 hours. However, the elusive the barrier remained until Eluid Kipchoge, a Kenyan distance runner and world record holder for the marathon, set his goals on achieving the impossible.
2 Hour Barrier
“Many ideologies [have] been going that no human will break the two-hour mark but personally, I have dared to try. I am doing it to make history.”-Eluid Kipchoge
Until Kipchoge’s historic run, the idea of running a marathon in less than 2 hours seemed humanly impossible. However, since Kipchoge’s first sub-2 hour attempt in 2017, he was determined to prove that the 2 hour barrier could not stop him. Kipchoge was led by world-class pace setters including Olympians like Matt Centrowitz and Bernard Lagat. The team of pacers served not only to keep Kipchoge on the sub-4:34 minute mile pace, but also to reduce drag by surrounding Kipchoge in a V like formation.
The event was sponsored by a British company, INEOS, which helped Kipchoge run in idea conditions to overcome the 2 hour barrier. Careful planning went into picking the flat course in Vienna, surrounded by trees to reduce wind, and because of these idealistic conditions, along with the pacers, the marathon is not counted as a world record. However, Kipchoge ran the standard distance determined not to make it into the record books but to prove that humans could overcome any limit. He kept his sub-4:34 mile pace for the entire 26.2 miles, astonishing the crowd and shattering any doubt about his capabilities.
Much like the invention of an airplane or the first step on the moon, Kipchoge’s run represented something bigger than athletics. He set out to prove that humans are not limited and that the impossible is possible with the right amount of determination. Kipchoge’s accomplishment is a reminder to never fear a barrier and to strive to prove that the impossible is possible.
“I’m sending a message to every individual in this world, that when you work hard, when you actually concentrate, when you set your priorities high, when you actually set your goals, and put them in your heart and in your mind, you will accomplish, without any question.”-Eluid Kipchoge
Dalek, Brian, and Christina SGOBBA Sgobba. “Eliud Kipchoge Breaks Two-Hour Marathon Barrier.” Runner’s World, Hearst Magazine Media, 12 Oct. 2019, http://www.runnersworld.com/news/a29430499/eliud-kipchoge-ineos-159-challenge-result/. Accessed 6 June 2020.
Gregory, Sean. “‘I Don’t Believe In Limits.’ Marathoner Eliud Kipchoge On Breaking the 2-Hour Barrier.” Time, Time, USA, 22 Oct. 2019, time.com/5707230/eliud-kipchoge/. Accessed 6 June 2020.
Nix, Elizabeth. “Why Is a Marathon 26.2 Miles?” History, A&E Television Networks, 22 Aug. 2018, http://www.history.com/news/why-is-a-marathon-26-2-miles#:~:text=The%20idea%20for%20the%20modern,After%20making%20his%20announcement%2C%20the. Accessed 6 June 2020.
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