Mon. Nov 18th, 2019

Will Kipchoge inspire a ‘real’ sub 2 marathon and when?

4 min read

While the world is celebrating the incredible sub 2 hour marathon run of Eliud Kipchoge in the Ineos 159 Challenge what is next for a sub 2 hour marathon. If you didn’t feel inspired by Kipchoge’s 1:59:40 on the streets of Vienna you probably need to pinch yourself and check if your human. It may just be the greatest athletic feat of all time.

Can Kipchoge’s great run fast track an attempt in a real race, a legal attempt at a sub 2-hour marathon? And when, how and who could do this? 

The most likely who, is Kipchoge himself. Certainly there is time left in his career, he will turn 35 years old on November 5th2019. Whether it is Kipchoge who attempts depends solely on whether he wants to. After breaking the world record in Berlin 2018 and then breaking 2 hours in Vienna there is nothing left to prove, he is the greatest marathoner of all time.

From the events in Vienna is would take a team of pacemakers, Ineos 159 has changed the landscape of how pacers can be used and this could be used in major marathons. However they wouldn’t be able to drop in and out and could only get him so far. He’d be left to run the most challenging section alone. He would need the support of a group of specialist half marathoners that can all comfortably run under 60 minutes for the half marathon to guide him through half way and possibly as far as 30km. From there he’d need to do it solo, which we’ve seen him do before in Berlin when he ran the last 17km alone in breaking the world record in 2:01:39.

The most likely location would be the Berlin marathon; it’s the scene of Kipchoge’s world record and most of the fastest times in history. With the Olympics next year in early September, Kipchoge won’t be racing both. If he wants to defend the Olympic gold medal from Rio we won’t see him in Berlin. Leaving possibly Berlin 2021, by then he is 36 years old and potentially ending his career with a legal attempt.

Since Kipchoge broke Dennis Kimetto’s world record of 2:02:57 in September 2018 there have been four marathon runs under that time. Kimetto’s world record stood for four years. Kipchoge and Mosinet Geremew both ran in the 2:02 range in London earlier this year and Keninsa Bekele and Birhanu Legese in Berlin just weeks ago. Bekele getting to within 2 seconds of the world record. Kipchoge has raised the expectations of those around him about what is possible and Bekele almost stole the record from him.  It is quite possible that by breaking two hours these expectations about are elevated even further.

For Bekele at 37 years old, it would seem unlikely, he doesn’t have father time on his side. However for Geremew, 27 and Legese 25 their best years are ahead of them and there is every chance Kipchoge’s world record and even the 2-hour mark are in reach. They are not the lone outliers of the new generation. Since Berlin 2018 there have been eight sub 2:04 marathon’s run and of those only Kipchoge and Bekele are on the wrong side of 30. 

Of these eight marathons under 2:04, all have been run at Berlin, London or Dubai and every runner is Kenyan or Ethiopian in nationality. You would be brave to predict a sub 2 hour attempt happening outside of these locations or by a runner of different nationality.

There is no easy path for the new generation. When history dawns on the careers of Kipchoge and Bekele we will probably be remembering the greatest two distance runners of all time. To push past their best will take true greatness by the next champion.

I believe a legal sub two hour marathon is coming within the next decade. Kipchoge has opened that door to possibility and if he can’t break it down legally with another attempt there will be others in the new generation bold enough to dream. Who that will be will become clearer in the coming years.

When an IAAF legal sub 2 hour marathon in a legitimate race is finally run we will have Eliud Kipchoge to thank. Thank you Eliud for helping the world believe that no human is limited. It was a privilege to watch you run the first sub 2 hour marathon.

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