In Vienna on Saturday evening (AEST time), the once-inconceivable was achieved. Eight-time marathon winner and three-time Olympic medalist Eliud Kipchoge smashed through the two-hour marathon barrier, running 1:59:40.
The incredible feat of athletics was 45 seconds faster than his previous attempt in 2017, and means he ran an average kilometre pace of 2:50. The accomplishment has been compared to Roger Bannister's sub-four-minute mile in 1954, Usain Bolt's under ten-second 100m in 2009, and even Neil Armstrong's walk on the moon in 1969.
And people are right to talk this moment up.
In the sporting world this accomplishment is huge. Breaking the elusive two-hour marathon was deemed untouchable only a few years ago. Now runners and other athletes all over the world have been shown that no human is limited.
Including Kenya's Brigid Kosgei, who beat the women's marathon world record by more than a minute on Sunday in winning the Chicago Marathon. Her unofficial time of 2:14:04 beats Paula Radcliffe's record, set at the 2003 London Marathon, by 81 seconds.
On your marks
Back to Vienna, the highly-staged race against the clock consisted of 4.4 laps of a spectator-lined 9.6 kilometre course with roundabouts on either end around Vienna's Prater park. After pounding his chest as he crossed the finish line Kipchoge said, "I am feeling good. After Roger Bannister in 1954 it took another 63 years. I tried and I did not get it. Sixty-five years, I am the first man."
The sub-two-hour target was billed by race organisers as the last barrier of modern athletics, and Kichoge admitted there was a lot riding on his performance.
"The pressure was very big on my shoulders," said Kipchoge, who revealed he had received a call from Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta the night before the run.
Kipchoge's coach Patrick Sang said, "I am happy for him and what he has achieved," he said. "He has inspired all of us that we can stretch our limits and that we can do more than we think we can do."
Kipchoge was supported by 41 pacemakers, including Australian runners Brett Robinson, Jack Rayner, Patrick Tiernan and Stewart McSweyn. Commenting on the phenomenal performance of his pacers, Kipchoge said "The pacemakers did a great job, they are among the best runners of all time. I thank them and appreciate them for accepting to do the job." he said. "One hundred per cent of me is nothing compared to one per cent of the whole team."
Nike athlete Jack Rayner said, "It was an incredible honour to pace Eliud, the fastest marathon runner of all time. To go beyond what seemed possible is an experience I loved being part of and will never forget."
Stewart McSweyn said, "What an experience to be part of this incredible attempt, and to be surrounded by this calibre of athletes from around the world. There's nothing better than to run with the world's fastest."
Despite the remarkable achievement, the watershed moment won't count as a world record because was not run under open marathon conditions and Kipchoge ran behind a car - a condition not allowed by the International Association of Athletics Federations. However, Kipchoge didn't seem to mind saying, "I am the happiest man in the world to be the first human to run under two hours," at the end of the race.
Kipchoge describes himself as a "person who loves change, technology and innovation" and while the pursuit of conquering personal bests drives him as an athlete, Kipchoge has also become an important voice in the future of running's technical engineering.
In May 2017 in Italy, Kipchoge took part in Breaking2, Nike's quest to break the two-hour marathon barrier. His final time, 2:00:25 signaled to the world - and to the runner too - the value of chasing audacious goals, not only for personal reasons, but in the spirit of advancing the sport as a whole.
The runner's voice
While the pursuit of personal bests fuels his training, Kipchoge has also become an important voice in fuelling the future of running's technical engineering. For the past five years, Kipchoge has given feedback on the full range of Nike's running footwear — from Free to Epic React and Pegasus to Vomero. Most important, he has been a constant partner in Nike's effort to redefine the marathon shoe.
Ahead of the race, the 34-year-old marathon world record holder said, "I am running to make history, to show that no human is limited. It's not about money, it's about showing a generation of people that there are no limits."
And that's exactly what he did. The marathon just got faster, and we can expect to see people all over the world run 42.195 kilometres from now on.
The high of crossing the finish line inspires running fanatic Laura Hill to clock up the kilometres each week. Whether you're a newbie to the running scene or a seasoned athlete, Laura brings the latest running trends and gear to readers across Australia. With a day job in the corporate world and a busy toddler, Laura loves nothing more than lacing up her runners and hitting the pavement to sharpen her mind and challenge her body.
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