‘Legs still do the running,’ Kipchoge counters the tech-talk in marathons – other sports

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It will be a year next month since Eliud Kipchoge achieved “the last barrier of modern athletics” — becoming the first to run a sub two-hour marathon. The Kenyan distance great compared the effort in Vienna to man’s landing on the moon. The Olympic marathon champion clocked 1:59.40, but it was not ratified as a record because the special race in Vienna’s Prater Park was ‘not run under open marathon conditions’, had pace-setters and the runners wore Nike shoes that had not been cleared for competition by the world athletics body.

Looking back at that race, Kipchoge calls it an incredible journey revealing mental strength. He had attempted to break the two-hour mark in 2017, in a race held specifically for the purpose in the Monza Formula One track, but just fell short (2:00.25).

“I am grateful to have been part of the 159 project. It was an incredible journey and I look back with joy,” says Kipchoge, brand ambassador for the Sunfeast India Run as One virtual event to raise funds for those affected by Covid-19 in India.

The Vienna run led to debate over what level of technology can be allowed. The Kenyan great is not concerned. “Innovations have always been part of sport. With running, the effect of technology will always be minimal, especially if you compare it to other sports. “It is my legs that are still doing the running. Train hard, be disciplined and be the best you can be and believe in yourself.”

The challenge now for the 35-year-old is to break the two-hour barrier in an official marathon. “I just need to give my best and when the time is right, we will see what can happen,” he says. Kipchoge almost did it while setting the world record in 2018 at Berlin (2:01:39). However, he puts the sub-two hour mark above the world record. “I cherish both records, but the 1:59 was proof of how strong the mind is and how strong self-belief is. No human is limited, in everything in life. I strongly believe in this and I want to share this inspiration with the world,” he says.

Inspirational journey

Kipchoge’s has been an inspirational athletic journey. He has three Olympic medals — he won the 2016 Rio marathon, after a silver and bronze in 5,000m — and an impressive eight victories in major marathons—four of them at London, thrice in Berlin with one victory coming at Chicago. “I am focused and disciplined. And I am blessed with a coach, management and teammates of the NN Running Team (in Kenya) who keep on inspiring me and run alongside me in my life.”

The pandemic has dealt a blow to road running this year. The London Marathon — Kipchoge is defending champion — will be run on October 4, marking the return of elite distance running. A highly anticipated clash looms with Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, world and Olympic 10,000m record holder.

“I am looking forward to it. I am honoured to race in such a high-quality field. Athletes are ready because they love athletics, they love running and are waiting to go out there in the world and run. It is like on my farm when the young calves are free to run out in the field.”

Kipchoge will defend his title at next year’s Tokyo Olympics, though the weather may not be his ally. “It is expected that Tokyo will be hot and humid; we need to prepare in a good way for these extreme circumstances.”

He actively supports causes to help people affected by the pandemic. “India is very close to my heart. I urge people across the world to come together to support our friends. It is sad to hear the plight of people in India due to Covid-19, so many have lost their livelihoods,” said Kipchoge, who won the Delhi Half Marathon in 2016, and a 5,000m silver in the 2010 New Delhi Commonwealth Games.

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