Eliud Kipchoge’s 1:59:40 marathon, run in the beautiful city of Vienna (my home for a while long ago) is an astonishing run. Before the race Kipchoge said “it’s like the first man to go to the moon … this is about history … it’s about leaving a legacy.”
He went on to say “I want to show the world that when you trust in something and have faith in what you are doing, you will achieve it, whether you’re a runner, a teacher or a lawyer.”
Inspirational stuff. This is a man who rarely loses – he’s won 11 out of 12 marathons and has the two fastest official times on record (the current best in a race is 2:01:39, though he ran 2:00:26 in Monza with a similar setup to the Vienna attempt).
I’ve crossed a few marathon finishing lines around the world myself. Just finishing is a huge buzz. Being the first to finish in under 2 hours is just extraordinary.
Those who have run the London Marathon in a “typical” time (let’s call that a little under 4 hours, which is what roughly 20% of people achieve) will likely know that moment when they turn right having crossed Tower Bridge, at roughly 10 miles, and see “the elites” coming the other way, having long since left Docklands behind, as they hit 22 miles or so. At that point there are usually still half a dozen in the lead group and a few scattered behind, all running with metronomic precision. It’s simultaneously uplifting – up close and personal with incredible athletes – and soul destroying, as you realise they’re near the end and you still have 16 miles to go. Were it not for the amazing crowds there, some might be tempted to throw in the towel.
At the London 2012 Olympics and, at many other London marathons, I’ve sat in a stand at the finish line watching everyone come home. It’s a thrill to watch the great athletes, but it’s just as big a rush to see everyone else complete the race, some struggling as they come round the bend by Buckingham Palace, and most picking up speed as they see the finish line. It is, after all, a race.
Kipchoge is first. Others will doubtless follow. Perhaps soon, but perhaps not. Sub 2 in race conditions is the next extraordinary marathon achievement, but it feels like a stretch from here.
Me, I’m happy finishing a half marathon in less than 2 hours these days.