In this interview with Firstpost, marathon running legend Eliud Kipchoge talks about the shoe controversy, running at the London Marathon this year, and running an actual marathon under the two-hour mark.
It’s been almost a year since Eliud Kipchoge became the first man to run a marathon distance under the two-hour mark, albeit in an unofficial event at Vienna’s Prater Park. While the run, completed under controlled conditions, was lauded the world over for re-imagining the limits of human endurance, it also attracted jibes from some quarters.
Kipchoge though, brushes off the critics.
“It is my legs that are still doing the running,” the Kenyan marathon runner told Firstpost in an email interaction when asked about the impact of his shoes in the eventual timing of 1:59:40 secs. “Innovations are part of sport and always have been. With running, the effect of technology will always be minimal especially if you compare it to other sports. Train hard and be disciplined. Be the best you can be and believe in yourself.”
Kipchoge holds the official world record over the marathon distance, having run the 2018 Berlin Marathon in a searing time of 2:01:39 secs. Before October 2019’s INEOS 1:59 Challenge, Kipchoge was involved in another effort to go under the two-hour mark in 2017 called Nike Breaking2 at the Monza racetrack. That effort had ended with Kipchoge coming tantalisingly close to the mythical two-hour mark, finishing it in 2:00:25 secs.
On being asked how difficult it will be to run under the two-hour mark at an actual marathon, he said: “In a normal marathon through city streets, and not always flat roads, it is a bit more challenging. But I believe it can be done in the future.” On being asked to name other runners who have the ability to run a marathon under two hours, he did not name anyone, but said: “Everyone who believes that anything is possible. Everyone who believe in themselves and are ready to train with discipline.”
Just like the rest of the world’s top athletes, life for the long-distance running legend also been affected due to coronavirus pandemic. Kipchoge has not run in a competition at all this year but has been the face of the ‘Sunfeast India Run As One’ initiative which started on Independence Day this year.
“I am very honoured and excited to be associated with the Sunfeast India Run As One as the global ambassador. I feel a movement like this has great power to bring people from various walks of life together for a good cause. It is very overwhelming to see the movement receive such great response from various sports people, movie stars, running community, corporates etc. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted so many lives and I extend my condolences to those who have lost loved ones. I believe this movement can help change many lives and all one needs to do is register to make a huge change to our society. One can register for the initiative through three different categories and have a chance to receive rewards accordingly,” he said.
Currently, Kipchoge is in London to prepare for what will be an elite runners-only London Marathon due to the pandemic. The race will be held on 4 October and will pit the Kenyan against another distance-running legend, Kenenisa Bekele. Given the restrictions arising due to the pandemic, the circuit this year will be an enclosed looped course in St James’ Park.
On being asked if the conditions for the race will make it a fast race or a slow one, Kipchoge said, “No one knows, it will be the first time (we’re running in a looped course in St James’ Park). It’s different because it will be many rounds, but I was a track athlete, so I am used to it.”
In March and April, when most countries enforced lockdowns to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, marathon runners in countries like Kenya and Ethiopia, who usually rely on training as a group and running outdoors, were affected. “(Because of the pandemic, we could not train together, but with my teammates from the NN Running Team, we kept in contact and supported each other in those difficult times. If you keep focused, you will be ready when needed,” he said before adding, “It was not easy (to train at the start when coronavirus had forced most countries to enforce lockdowns). I had to adjust with alternative training like on the indoor bike and the ZeroRunner during the first period.”
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