Eliud Kipchoge’s Fastest Marathon Time: The Story Behind 2:01:39

Eliud Kipchoge has earned himself a spot among the most successful marathoners of all time. From the London and Berlin Marathons to the Rio Olympics, this elite athlete has been clocking up wins one after another.

In 2017, Kipchoge ventured into the unexplored territory of sub-2 hour marathons, beating the world’s record at that time, but sadly that wasn’t ratified by IAAF. The run, which was part of Nike’s Breaking2 project, didn’t follow the necessary fluid and elevation rules to qualify as a world record. Still, he scored his personal best and he’s thriving for more.

“Running the fastest ever marathon time of 2:00:25 was the proudest moment of my career,” said Kipchoge commenting on his breakthrough.

Obliterating the 2-hour marathon mark is still a record to be broken. Despite Kipchoge’s glorious attempt, there’s more to accomplish and the acclaimed marathoner is up to the challenge.

An Ode to the World’s Best Marathoner

Earlier this year, Kipchoge won the 2019 London Marathon title, setting a new course record. This made him the first male athlete to win it 4 times. He broke the tape in 2:02:37. This is the last win of a 10-marathon-wins’ streak for the athlete, who many refer to as the Kenyan King.

According to Runner’s World, when Kipchoge was asked if he had any doubts about winning, the renowned athlete smiled saying ‘What?’. It seemed as if Kipchoge, his competitors and the marathon viewers themselves didn’t question the fact that this marathon will have a certain winner.

Before this, he broke the world’s 26.2-mile record in 2018’s Berlin Marathon, shaving a minute and 18 seconds off its preceding record. This made him the first Kenyan to hold the world marathon record in the last 30 years. Another key milestone in Kipchoge’s career was his 2016 Olympic medal in Rio.

Numbers don’t lie and Kipchoge’s numbers are insane! Throughout the 11 marathons he completed, he has only failed to win one. He hasn’t lost since 2013, in Berlin Marathon when he lost to Wilson Kipsang.

It’s not about how many times did Kipchoge win, though. What’s more impressive is how he wins. The invincible runner never fails to impress us with an impeccable performance. Moreover, his balanced pace and wide smile make running look effortless.

Eliud Kipchoge makes stretching human potentials beyond boundaries his sole purpose. In several interviews, he traced his success back to his love of sports, belief in himself and hard work.

ESPN named Kipochge second of its Most Dominant Athlete ranking in 2018, a reasonable consequence of his Berlin win. In these rankings, Kipchoge topped many other athletes who are much more well-known, such as LeBron James, Luka Modric, and Lewis Hamilton.

Kipchoge is often called the ‘philosopher’ as his mentality is what sets him apart. He loves to keep a low-profile lifestyle, in which he only focuses on training and self-discipline.

He sums up his training philosophy in a simple equation: Motivation x Dischipline = Consistency.

Eliud Kipchoge’s Early Life

Kipchoge was born in Kapsisiywa, Kenya in November 1984. Running his way to school was a normal daily activity for the Kenyan Kid. As a child, Kipchoge did not pursue running at a competitive level. This changed when he started to train himself to be a professional athlete after completing school.

Kipchoge burst onto the scene by entering some local races and winning second or first place, drawing attention to his potential. Luckily, he lived near the famous Patrick Sang, who became his coach later in life.

Eliud Kipchoge’s Training Journey

The prominent runner never forgets to honor his coach, Patrick Sang. Indeed, Sang is often considered the mastermind behind Kipchoge’s success,.

In 2000, the then-16-year-old Eliud went to Sang asking him for a training program. Sang gave him a program indifferently, to find him coming back after 2 weeks having finished the program and asking what should he do next.

That happened multiple of times until they decided to prepare Eliud for the national cross country championship. He won that later in 2003. They began training together much more closely from then on.

They’ve been together for 19 years now.

‘“I trusted my coach. Trust is what pushed me in the last kilometers,” said Kipchoge after winning the 2018 Berlin marathon.

Nike’s Breaking2

In December 2016, Nike announced its Breaking2 project. The goal of the project is to break the 2-hour marathon barrier, surpassing the world record of (at the time) 2:02:57.

Perceived by many as a marketing stunt for the athletic corporation, Nike’s marketing directors denied those claims. The company’s real goal was to challenge athletes to diminish what’s seen as an impossible barrier.

The Competitors

Nike challenged three distance runners, Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge, Ethiopian Lelisa Desisa, and Zersenay Tadese from Eritrea to run the 26.2 miles course under 2 hours, wearing Zoom Vaporfly Elite, Nike’s new runners. The challenge has been widely followed: 13.1 million people have watched the marathon via Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube.

Partnering up with National Geographic boosted the campaign. It produced an astonishing documentary capturing all the important milestones, starting from preparations of the project, to athletes’ training and of course the race itself.

This was an attempt to draw viewers to fully engage with the project. After all, the whole idea of the project was based on the premise of storytelling. The goal was met and the documentary has racked up around 2.5 million views on their Youtube channel.

The Race

In Monza, Italy on May 6th, 2017 the awaited race took place. The indomitable Eliud Kipchoge timed 2:00:24 covering 26.2 miles. He was just 25 seconds shy of the pre-set mark. He didn’t succeed to break the world record but he achieved a new personal record with this being his fastest marathon time.

The reigning Kenyan Olympic was expected to be the closest to hit the mark even before the marathon. This is because his of his previous personal best set in London 2016, which was 2:03.05. Notably, Eliud’s previous personal best was already the 3rd fastest race of all time.

Worthy to note that Kipchoge’s timing was the fastest marathon ever run, yet he didn’t make it to a world record due to his use of pacers, a practice prohibited by athletic regulations. According to some scientists, to surpass the 2-hour limit, Kipchoge needed to increase his speed by 3%, which they claimed was nearly impossible achieve with regular human abilities.

Nike’s endeavor was acclaimed by some agencies to be the ‘Campaign of the Year 2017’. This again raised suspicions about their real intention with the project.

An In-Depth Look

Kipchoge had been preparing to break this record for about 2 years before Nike’s marathon. When asked about his training plan back then, he said that he doesn’t need anything fancy.

At that time, he shared a training camp with about 25 other athletes. His diet is usually composed of normal Kenyan food and he practices twice daily with one day off per week.

According to Kipchoge, he rarely overloads himself with training. As you likely know, overtraining is a notoriously common problem among long-distance runners. I personally have suffered overtraining multiple timemes while trying to qualify for Boston.

For Kipchoge, the goal is to run with a ‘relaxed mind’, he says. His primary focus was not on his body rather on his mindset. He seems to have a remarkable ability to rewire his thinking to believe he can hit the 2-hour mark and inspire people to fearlessly pursue seemingly impossible challenges.

Kipchoge has an interesting ritual: he records his workouts in notebooks. Up till now, he’s compiled 15 notebooks. This marks one notebook for each year of his professional career.

Eliud Kipchoge has earned himself a spot among the most successful marathoners of all time. From the London and Berlin Marathons to the Rio Olympics, this elite athlete has been clocking up wins one after another.

In 2017, Kipchoge ventured into the unexplored territory of sub-2 hour marathons. He beat the world record at that time, but his time was not ratified by the IAAF. The run was part of Nike’s Breaking2 project and did not follow fluid, pacer, and elevation rules. Still, he scored his personal best and he’s thriving for more.

“Running the fastest ever marathon time of 2:00:25 was the proudest moment of my career,” said Kipchoge.

Obliterating the 2-hour marathon mark has still not occurred. Despite Kipchoge’s glorious attempt, there’s more to achieve and the acclaimed marathoner is up to the challenge.

An Ode to the World’s Best Marathoner

Earlier this year, Kipchoge won the 2019 London Marathon title, setting a new course record. This made him the first male athlete to win it 4 times. He broke the tape in 2:02:37. This is the last win of a 10-marathon-wins’ streak for the athlete, who many refer to as the Kenyan King.

According to Runner’s World, when asked if he had any doubts about winning, the renowned athlete smiled saying ‘What?’. It seemed as if Kipchoge, his competitors and the marathon viewers themselves didn’t question the fact that this marathon will have a certain winner.

Before this, he broke the world’s 26.2-mile record in 2018’s Berlin Marathon, shaving a minute and 18 seconds off its preceding record. This made him the first Kenyan to hold the world marathon record in the last 30 years. Another key milestone in Kipchoge’s career was his 2016 Olympic medal in Rio.

The Mentality of Eliud Kipchoge

Numbers don’t lie and Kipchoge’s numbers are insane! Throughout the 11 marathons he completed, he has only failed to win one. He hasn’t lost since 2013, in Berlin Marathon when he lost to Wilson Kipsang.

It’s not about how many times did Kipchoge win, though. What’s more impressive is how he wins. The invincible runner never fails to impress us with an impeccable performance. Moreover, his balanced pace and wide smile make running look effortless.

Eliud Kipchoge makes stretching human potentials beyond boundaries his sole purpose. In several interviews, he traced his success back to his love of sports, belief in himself and hard work.

ESPN named Kipochge second of its Most Dominant Athlete ranking in 2018, a reasonable consequence of his Berlin win. In these rankings, Kipchoge topped many other athletes who are much more well-known. Examples include LeBron James, Luka Modric, and Lewis Hamilton.

Kipchoge is often called the ‘philosopher’ as his mentality is what sets him apart. He loves to keep a low-profile lifestyle, in which he only focuses on training and self-discipline.

He sums up his training philosophy in a simple equation: Motivation x Dischipline = Consistency.

Eliud Kipchoge’s Early Life

Kipchoge was born in Kapsisiywa, Kenya in November 1984. Running his way to school was a normal daily activity for the Kenyan Kid. As a child, Kipchoge did not pursue running at a competitive level. This changed when he started to train himself to be a professional athlete after completing school.

Kipchoge burst onto the scene by entering some local races and winning second or first place, drawing attention to his potential. Luckily, he lived near the famous Patrick Sang, who became his coach later in life.

Eliud Kipchoge’s Training Journey

The prominent runner never forgets to honor his coach, Patrick Sang. Indeed, Sang is often considered the mastermind behind Kipchoge’s success.

In 2000, the then-16-year-old Eliud went to Sang asking him for a training program. Sang gave him a program indifferently, to find him coming back after 2 weeks having finished the program and asking what should he do next.

That happened many times. Eventually, they decided to prepare Eliud for the national cross country championship. He won that later in 2003. They began training together much more closely from then on.

They’ve been together for 19 years now.

‘“I trusted my coach. Trust is what pushed me in the last kilometers,” said Kipchoge after winning the 2018 Berlin marathon.

Nike’s Breaking2

In December 2016, Nike announced its Breaking2 project. The goal of the project is to break the 2-hour marathon barrier, surpassing the world record of (at the time) 2:02:57.

Perceived by many as a marketing stunt for the athletic corporation, Nike’s marketing directors denied those claims. The company’s real goal was to challenge athletes to diminish what’s seen as an impossible barrier.

The Competitors

Nike challenged three distance runners: Eliud Kipchoge, Lelisa Desisa, and Zersenay Tadese. Each athlete wore Zoom Vaporfly Elite, Nike’s new runners. The challenge has been widely followed: 13.1 million people have watched the marathon via Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube.

Partnering up with National Geographic boosted the campaign. It produced an astonishing documentary capturing all the important milestones. The film began with preparations and also included the athletes’ training. Of course, the race itself was also filmed.

This was an attempt to draw viewers to fully engage with the project. After all, the entire project focused on the premise of storytelling. Nike met its goal and the documentary has racked up around 2.5 million views on their Youtube channel.

The Race

In Monza, Italy on May 6th, 2017 the awaited race took place. The indomitable Eliud Kipchoge timed 2:00:24 covering 26.2 miles. He was just 25 seconds shy of the pre-set mark. He didn’t succeed to break the world record but he achieved a new personal record with this being his fastest marathon time.

Many expected the reigning Kenyan Olympic to be the closest to hit the mark even before the marathon. This is because his of his previous personal best set in London 2016, which was 2:03.05. Notably, Eliud’s previous personal best was already the 3rd fastest race of all time.

Kipchoge’s time was the fastest marathon ever run. However, he did not earn world record due to his use of pacers, a practice prohibited by athletic regulations.

According to some scientists, Kipchoge would need to increase his power by 3% to break the 2-hour mark. Some claim this is impossible achieve with regular human abilities.

Nike’s project earns the title of ‘Campaign of the Year 2017’. This again raised suspicions about their real intention with the project.

An In-Depth Look

Kipchoge had been preparing to break this record for about 2 years before Nike’s marathon. When asked about his training plan back then, he said that he doesn’t need anything fancy.

At that time, he shared a training camp with about 25 other athletes. His diet is usually composed of normal Kenyan food and he practices twice daily with one day off per week.

According to Kipchoge, he rarely overloads himself with training. As you likely know, overtraining is a notoriously common problem among long-distance runners. I personally have suffered overtraining multiple timemes while trying to qualify for Boston.

For Kipchoge, the goal is to run with a ‘relaxed mind’, he says. His primary focus was not on his body rather on his mindset. He seems to have a remarkable ability to rewire his thinking to believe he can hit the 2-hour mark and inspire people to fearlessly pursue seemingly impossible challenges.

Kipchoge has an interesting ritual: he records his workouts in notebooks. Up till now, he’s compiled 15 notebooks. This marks one notebook for each year of his professional career.

As you might expect, when asked what he’d do after the race, Kipchoge said that he intends to continue training and preparing to beat that barrier again.

Who Will Break This Record?

Famous research carried out by Michael Joyner attributed a runner’s performance to 3 main physiological features: maximizing oxygen consumption while running, lactate threshold – which refers to the maximal effort an athlete can withstand for an extended period of time – and running economy, the energy demand for a given velocity of running.
Unsurprisingly, Kipchoge scores highly in VO2 max and lactate threshold. This means that he has a remarkable exercise capacity. This led Nike’s team to focus on his nutrition and gear to maximize his power, with the goal of improving his running economy.

To beat the 2-hour limit, an athlete should maximize at least 2 factors of the 3. Joyner has calculated the theoretical fastest time for a marathon to be 1:57:58.

A New Attempt

Earlier this month, Kipchoge announced that will attempt a sub-2 hour marathon again this fall.

INEOS, a world-class producer of petrochemicals, introduced the challenge. Kipchoge responded enthusiastically, saying that he thinks he might beat his previous record by 26 seconds.

The situation here should not be very different from Nike’s. With that said, there have been some protests from environmentalists that condemn INEOS’s practices of using plastics. Because of this, I expect there to be some noticeable controversy surrounding this challenge this time around.

Kipchoge’s has a history that’s full of world records. His ability are unquestionable and he also sports a determined mindset. I believe that it is a matter of time until he breaks the record.

Eliud Kipchoge is a class act in both sports and life, a man who carved his name in the minds and hearts of many and created a legacy that will live for years. Even if he does not break the two-hour marathon, he will forever act as a source on inspiration for runners around the world.

As you might expect, when asked what he’d do after the race, Kipchoge said that he intends to continue training and preparing to beat that barrier again.

Can This Record be Broken?

Famous research carried out by Michael Joyner attributed a runner’s performance to 3 main physiological features: maximizing oxygen consumption while running, lactate threshold – which refers to the maximal effort an athlete can withstand for an extended period of time – and running economy, the energy demand for a given velocity of running.

Unsurprisingly, Kipchoge scores highly in VO2 max and lactate threshold. This means that he has a remarkable exercise capacity. This led Nike’s team to focus on his nutrition and gear to maximize his power, with the goal of improving his running economy.

To beat the 2-hour limit, an athlete should maximize at least 2 factors of the 3. Joyner has calculated the theoretical fastest time for a marathon to be 1:57:58.

A New Attempt

Earlier this month, Eliud Kipchoge announced through his Instagram that he’ll be attempting to conquer the sub-2hr marathon again this fall.

INEOS, a world-class producer of petrochemicals, introduced the challenge. Eliud Kipchoge responded enthusiastically, saying that he thinks he might beat his previous record by 26 seconds.

I believe the situation here will not be very different from Nike’s. With that said, there have been some protests from environmentalists that condemn INEOS’s practices of using plastics. Because of this, I expect there to be some noticeable controversy surrounding this challenge this time around.

With Kipchoge’s history that’s full of world records alongside with his unequivocal abilities and determined mindset, I personally believe that it is just a matter of time till he breaks that record.

Eliud Kipchoge is a class act in both sports and life, a man who carved his name in the minds and hearts of many and created a legacy that will live for years. Even if he does not break the two-hour marathon, he will forever act as a source on inspiration for runners around the world.

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Written on June 3, 2019