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Eliud’s only motivation is beating the clock as he bids to race into history

By Joel Omotto
Friday, October 11th, 2019

Joel Omotto and Agencies

Eliud Kipchoge has nothing to lose. The Kenyan Olympic champion and world marathon record holder will attempt to do something no human has done, run 42km in less than two hours.

Vienna’s Prater public park will not be recognised by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) so even if he achieves this feat, it will not be a world record. 

For a world record, there must also be other competitors but Kipchoge has no challengers (though Jonathan Korir, Augustine Choge and Gideon Kipketer will act as pacemakers), meaning his attempt will contravene IAAF rules, as there will be 41 athletes providing him with the requisite pace, rotating in and out, as well as protecting him from the wind.

A world record attempt could be valid if the pacers did not rejoin the race, but this is not the case here.

But that is not Kipchoge’s motivation. After all, he is the world record holder and is reported to have pocketed $4 million (Sh400 million) for this challenge christened INEOS 1:59. 

His only motivation is the clock because he is racing against time, 25 seconds to be precise, as this is what he fell short of in his last attempt to break ‘sub-two’ in Monza, Italy in 2017.

“I want to unlock that thought that there are limitations in the human being. There are no barriers when you believe in yourself and try and trust in what you are doing,” Kipchoge told The Associated Press upon the challenge’s launch in May.

His performance, on May 2017, took seven seconds off every mile run by the then-world record holder Dennis Kimetto, yet was still not enough but having done seven months of intense training at the quiet and serene Kaptagat in Nandi, he believes the feat is achievable this time around.

Kipchoge has been eating from crammed benches in a very basic canteen with fellow athletes, sharing gym sessions with up to 30 others, running through the Rift Valley’s clay tracks where school buses and lorries overtook him, and drunk water from an open tap in a field.

The Monza race track—selected because of its flatness, wide bends and a climate which proved warmer and wetter than anticipated—but tomorrow, the optimum humidity for the race will be 80 per cent and the temperature range between seven and 14 C.

The quality of the air was also taken into consideration with event director Hugh Brasher terming it ‘stunning.’

“Not only does the 4.3km track have stable weather conditions but also has an incline of only 2.4 metres. It is probably the straightest road I’ve ever seen,” he said.

In Monza, the scientific support team was put together by Nike—whose branding levels underlined their desperation to score a commercial coup. 

This time, British billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe, through his company Ineos, is funding Kipchoge’s shot at the ‘sub-two’—one of the sport’s great unconquered frontiers.

The athlete in question is 5ft 6in, weighs a mere 9th, yet runs with near-perfect balance and—critically—generates very little lactate, the acid which brings stress to the muscles and turns 13.1 miles an hour into torture.

He will need to sustain a 4:34 minutes per mile pace over the distance to complete the challenge.

As in Monza, there will be a pacer car, set 20 yards ahead of Kipchoge and his phalanx of support runners, which will fire a fluorescent green laser beam onto the road to mark where he needs to be if he is to break two hours. 

The laser will actually be set at a time 10 or 20 seconds below the two-hour mark, ensuring that Kipchoge will be ahead of the target and thus not denied his prize by a stumble.

The pace-setters—all elite marathon and middle-distance runners—will, as in Monza, be swapped in for three or six-mile sections as they cannot keep pace with Kipchoge for longer. Their contribution also obviates any prospect of recognition by the IAAF, which insists that all pace setters must run from the start.

The bicyclists who will draw alongside Kipchoge to provide drinks, another breach of IAAF rules which decree bottles be picked up from tables, have also been rehearsing the simple manoeuvre for months.

As in Monza, Kipchoge will run in the Vaporfly, a shoe containing a highly controversial carbon-fibre plate in the soles, supposedly capable of improving times by one per cent over any other shoe.

But this time it will be the updated Vaporfly Next shoe. And the Kenyan will this time be consuming an energy drink, made by the Swedish company Maurten, which contains more carbohydrates than other such drink and also forms a hydrogel when it reaches the stomach—generating more energy during a marathon without causing gastrointestinal problems. 

Yet more than these products, it is physiology which puts Kipchoge on the cusp of history. His support team say that the fact he has attempted this once before will be significant when it comes to tomorrow’s run, which will finish in the dark, under purpose-built floodlights, because it will be cooler then. -Additional information from Daily Mail and The Independent 

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