I’ll run the marathon in under two hours, says legendary Eliud Kipchoge
Multiple Olympic medallist from Kenya is confident he will become the first sub-two hour man after coming agonisingly close in Milan in May
An unmistakable air of respect wafts through the room as Eliud Kipchoge – considered the greatest marathoner of the modern era – takes his seat. The once clamorous background falls completely silent after the legendary Kenyan opens with his characteristically gentle voice.
But do not let it fool you. The 32-year-old Kipchoge, who is in Hong Kong as a part of his Nike Run Club China tour, has a fire in his belly like never before. And it is all to do with the number two.
The International Association of Athletics Federation’s (IAAF) official world record for the men’s marathon is 2:02:57, set by fellow Kenyan Dennis Kimetto in 2014. Kipchoge’s best official time – emphasis on official – is 2:03:05.
“I am really concentrated on running the world record,” said Kipchoge, a 2016 Rio Olympics gold medallist with Olympic medals from 2004 and 2008. “I have confidence and I’m not stopping.”
Watch: Eliud Kipchoge runs 2:00:25 in Milan
Last year, Kipchoge and Nike teamed up for a project they called Breaking2 – a moon shot attempt to become the first-ever human to break the two hour mark in a conventional 42.2km marathon.
In May, Kipchoge ran an unfathomable 2:00:25 at the Monza racetrack in Italy. This not only blew Kimetto’s record out of the water, but was a devastating 25 seconds from his target.
Unfortunately, the meticulously-planned out race breached some of IAAF’s rules regarding the number of pacers joining Kipchoge throughout the feat. The run was therefore ineligible for the record books.
“I looked back and I think I have to challenge to get under two hours again,” Kipchoge said with a smile. “[It will happen] any minute now. I was only 25 seconds off – it’s not far. Any minute now.”
Kipchoge opened the Hong Kong leg of his tour with a scenic run around The Peak alongside local running club, Pavement Pounders, and a host of celebrities.
“I really enjoyed running with them in the highest part of Hong Kong,” he said. “It was my first time and the trip has been awesome so far.”
The combination of quiet confidence, optimism and relentlessness within Kipchoge is nothing short of remarkable, but he was quick to clarify that these traits are acquired over time.
This is precisely why Kipchoge, who first tasted championship gold as an 18-year-old, wanted to impart his philosophies onto Hong Kong’s young coaches and athletes, some of whom will participate in the Nike Run Club Home Run on Saturday.
“They key to racing is to trust the mentality,” said Kipchoge. “Mentality is where the success is. I will teach the kids how to think in a positive way.
Kipchoge’s daily routine is also that of a parent’s dream for their young ones.
“I wake up at 5am, by 6am I’m on the way to training. I come back and relax, have lunch, take a little nap, then train again at 4pm for an evening run. Then relax, dinner and bed at 9pm until the next day.
“If you sleep late, then you won’t recover. It’s a medicine; if you sleep, then your mind and opportunities will be free.”
The humble athlete did not mention that he hand washes his own sports gear nor that he does his fair share of cleaning and collecting water from the local wells when training in his native Kenya.
“Staying humble helps. If you are humble, your concentration will be very high. That’s the way to go in sports.”
This was encapsulated in his profound response to being labelled the greatest ever: “I respect their thoughts.”
Having run 2:03:32 in Berlin, Germany in September, Kipchoge is adamant he can tick off both of his career goals before his legs start to slow. In fact, he nonchalantly threw in another objective into the mix.
“Thinking positively and confidently changed my life. If you stay consistent and work hard, you can be successful for a long time. “2020 is on my mind,” he said of the Tokyo Olympics, where he hopes to strike gold again.
Any one of these three is daunting to mere mortals, but Eliud Kipchoge is one of a kind.