A lot has been written about the sense and nonsense of trying to run a sub 2 hour marathon. I also shared my opinion in this blog post. Finally on May 6th the record attempt took place. Here’s how it went.
As announced before, the record attempt took place on a formula 1 race track in Italy. So it was my time zone but the start was early and I got up at 5:30am. It was no question to miss out some sleep for this especially because the attempt took place on my birthday.
At a quarter to six in the morning the three runners, Lesisa Desisa, Zersenay Tadese and Olympic gold medalist Eliud Kipchoge, started running into the early morning darkness on to the first of 17 laps. In front of the three African athletes were six pace makers and a Tesla that drove in 2h pace and projected a line on the ground the runners should follow.
It was not a surprise that for the first parts of the “race” there was not too much excitement. The runners started at a consistent pace right behind the car. Several pacers who substituted after each of the 2.5km long laps, provided a wind shield for the three record attempting athletes.
After the half way mark, the runners were still right in time for the record. Lelisa Desisa and soon after Zersenay Tadese couldn’t handle the record pace anymore and needed to let go. The spotlight was from now on only on Eliud Kipchoge.
It was clear that the last couple of miles were going to be tough for Kipchoge. However he didn’t look like he was struggling. After running 30k at a pace of 17 seconds per 100 meters Kipchoge started to show a subtle smile on his face. It was also about that time that he slowly fell a bit behind and couldn’t catch the car that was driving a couple of meters in front of him. It seemed that Kipchoge knew that he most probably wouldn’t be able to run a sub 2 hour marathon. But still he kept running as fast as he could and looked like he liked what he was doing.
At the end Kipchoge finished 2:00:25 the fastest ever recorded marathon. The Kenyan runner logged the 26.2 miles 1.5 minutes faster than the current world record set in Berlin by Dennis Kimetto. Towards the end of the marathon distance it became clear that this was way more a team effort compared to regular marathon races. The team, especially the pacers kept motivating Kipchoge pushing him towards the finish line.
I guess that it’s possible! Sure Kipchoge missed the magic barrier by 25 seconds but that was on this try on that day. It’s obvious that Nike or another company will find something more to optimize and maybe Kipchoge will find something more that can keep him on track on this last few miles.
So I’m pretty sure that we will see a sub 2-hour marathon before the end of the decade under optimized conditions. Also I guess the pro running community learned something that will help to achieve a new official world record maybe on the next Berlin Marathon.
For me it was just great to see the happiness in the face of a great athlete at his absolute limit. It was an exciting start in my birthday despite stealing some hours of sleep 🙂