Roger Bannister, 1954. Eliud Kipchoge, 2019?
Like the sub-four minute mile, running a marathon in less than two hours had seemed impossible — until Saturday. But this time there’s an asterisk: Olympic champion Kipchoge performed his feat under conditions so tightly controlled to maximize his success that it won’t appear in the record books.
The 34-year-old Kenyan completed the 42.195 kilometers (26.2 miles) in 1 hour, 59 minutes, 40.2 seconds at the INEOS 1:59 Challenge, an event set up for the attempt.
Ahead of the event, Kipchoge even compared the feat to being “like the first man on the moon.” Afterward, he drew comparisons to Bannister, the late Briton who 65 years ago became the first athlete to run a mile in under four minutes.
“It is a great feeling to make history in sport after Sir Roger Bannister,” Kipchoge said. “I am the happiest man in the world to be the first human to run under two hours and I can tell people that no human is limited. I expect more people all over the world to run under two hours after today.”
With all variables tailored to his advantage, it was still the full marathon distance but it was no regular marathon race, which means his jaw-dropping finishing time will not be ratified by IAAF.
Different to an ordinary race, event organizers had set a nine-day window to be flexible and stage the run in the best possible weather conditions.
Also, Kipchoge was supported throughout his run by 36 pacemakers who accompanied him in alternating groups, with five athletes running ahead of him in a V-shape and two others closely following.
Unlike a normal race, a timing car just in front of the pack also helped keep the scheduled pace, and was equipped with a laser beam, projecting the ideal position on the road, parts of which also had painted stripes to indicate the optimum running line.
Furthermore, Kipchoge received drinks handed over by a cyclist to prevent him from having to slow down.
Even though his attempt was never meant to set an official world record, Kipchoge was understandably delighted and twice punched his chest in celebration while smiling when he finished.
“That was the best moment of my life,” he said, before adding that he trained 4 ½ months for his extraordinary race against the clock. “The pressure was very big on my shoulders. I got a phone call from the president of Kenya.”
‘No human is limited’: Kipchoge runs sub-2 hour marathon