Eliud Kipchoge: the holder of the world marathon record has “the qualities of an ascetic monk”

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Amid the bluster and noise that often surrounds professional sport, they discovered that Kipchoge’s calm, contemplative demeanor was unique – calm in the eye of the storm.

The film, released digitally from August 23 in the UK and August 24 in the US, tells the story of the first marathon under two hours – a feat achieved by Kipchoge in Vienna, Austria, in 2019 in part of a company called the INEOS 1:59 challenge.

A behind-the-scenes look at the carefully designed environment to maximize Kipchoge’s performance over 26.2 miles, it’s also about the athlete’s own low-key way and his home long-distance training environment at home at the Kenya.

Kipchoge participates in a training session near Eldoret in March 2017.
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“We went down to Eldoret, which is a high altitude training camp in Kenya, and we found a few dozen of the best middle to long distance athletes in the world living like monks,” producer Ross Plummer told CNN Sport.

“There was no distraction, no entertainment, no family; they ran 100 miles a week and slept 14, 15 hours a day.

“To us it seemed like they were training to ignore pain for the last 10 kilometers of a marathon. And we thought, well, that’s fantastic – we’d like to make a story about that.”

Eldoret, a town over 2,000 meters (6,562 feet) above sea level in the Rift Valley, is a sacred destination for long-distance runners due to its high altitude, temperate climate and its long stretches of winding country roads.

The rural region is the place from which Kipchoge, the fastest marathoner of all time, lays the foundations for his success in races around the world.

He set the world record for the two-hour, one-minute and 41-second marathon in Berlin three years ago, before becoming the first man to unofficially run the distance in less than two hours the following year. Of the 14 major marathons in which he participated, he won 12.

Kipchoge, in a white waistcoat, is accompanied by pacemakers as he tries to cross the two-hour barrier for a marathon.
On Sunday in Sapporo, the Japanese city 500 miles north of Tokyo, Kipchoge, 36, became the third man to defend an Olympic marathon title.

“My real enthusiasm in Tokyo is no longer to participate in the Olympics, but to leave a legacy,” he said last week.

Kipchoge’s mantra – that “no human is limited” – is one he strives to embody through his run rather than words.

“Because he’s so reserved, calm and humble, he’s pretty hard to get to,” Scott told CNN Sport. “Eliud, it’s not that he’s elusive or evasive in any way, he’s just calm. He doesn’t say much. And when he does speak, he’s saying something incredibly important.”

Within his elite training squad, Kipchoge is “the captain among the other riders”, according to Scott, and leads quietly.

“Eliud isn’t someone who calls attention to himself… he doesn’t stand out that way. He doesn’t put himself above anyone else,” Scott adds.

“I think he really lives by his code that no human is limited.”

Kipchoge coined the phrase during the INEOS 1:59 challenge, his second attempt to run an unofficial marathon less than two hours after Nike’s Breaking2 project in Monza, Italy, in 2017.
Kipchoge celebrates setting a world record at the 2018 Berlin Marathon.

Unlike the unpredictable conditions of most large marathons, these attempts of less than two hours created the perfect conditions to produce a quick time.

In Vienna, Kipchoge ran on a smooth, flat course with few turns. It was assisted by an army of pacemakers to block the wind and a support car emitting green lights on the road to provide a visual marker of the required pace of two minutes, 50 seconds per kilometer.

His fluid intake was also carefully monitored, with a cyclist on hand to pass by and collect beverage bottles.

“Getting a man to the moon involved overcoming gravity. What Kipchoge is doing is taking gravity out of the equation,” sports scientist Ross Tucker told CNN Sport ahead of the challenge. “The variables are too artificial to be considered a pure human achievement.”

Another notable aspect of the challenge, and more broadly of Kipchoge’s career, was the shoes he wore.

Nike’s carbon fiber clad “super shoes” gained prominence around 2016, and various different versions have been released since then.

Following Nike’s success, which was led by Kipchoge’s record-breaking times, other big brands – including Adidas, Asics, Brooks and New Balance, among others – released versions of the shoes featuring a fiber-reinforced plate. carbon and ultralight foam.

“Is Kipchoge an outlier with immense athletic potential? Or is he just a very good runner who benefits from the immense improvements his shoes have made? Maybe both,” Tucker said.

Beyond the marathon, there is a debate to be had as to whether Kipchoge is the greatest long-distance runner of all time.

“What can you say, he’s the world record holder and he’s also an Olympic champion,” US marathoner Abdi Abdirahman told CNN Sport earlier this year. “He knows he’s had a great career.”

“For me Kipchoge is the best, but I think Kenenisa (Bekele) is the GOAT (the greatest ever).”

Ethiopia’s Bekele, a three-time Olympic gold medalist, held world records in the 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters during his career. In 2019, he won the Berlin Marathon in 2:01:41, two seconds off Kipchoge’s world record.

“What he has accomplished as an athlete is rare. You hardly hear about it,” continues Abdirahman. “He was breaking world records – 5 kilometers, 10 kilometers – when there weren’t great shoes, when there weren’t any.”

Bekele was not scheduled to compete in this year’s Olympic marathon, apparently due to his frustrations with the selection policy of the Ethiopian Athletics Federation.

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