As is the nature of the sport, running records are set to be broken, and recently these record times have been beaten in several areas, including the tough to beat four-minute mile and 10-second 100-meter sprint. One of the last major records yet to be broken in running-based sports was the sub-two-hour marathon.
A few years ago Nike set out to train the man who would break this barrier. Nike trained four athletes over the course of a year, setting them up with perfect running conditions. Other runners would break the wind in front of them, shifting in and out when tired. Nike found a perfect terrain that had absolute minimal altitude change. They also delivered them water on bikes and had a pace-setting line to show where the runners should be. When the perfect day hit, Nike sent out their four runners and tried to break history. Unfortunately, none of the runners managed to break the two-hour barrier, but the top prospect of the four, Eliud Kipchoge managed to only miss it by a mere half a minute.
Kipchoge is a 34-year-old runner from Kenya, who has won eight major marathons and three gold medals while representing his country in the Olympics. Even after achieving success, Kipchoge prefers to live a simple life with his wife and kids while owning a running clinic in his home country, looking to send the message that no human is limited.
Kipchoge caught the eye of a Petrochemical company named INEOS, who wanted to train him and help him break the two-hour barrier. To start, INEOS searched to find the perfect spot for Kipchoge to race. They settled in Vienna where the temperature was mild, the altitude was minimal and it was within a singular time zone. They also set up perfect conditions in almost the same way Nike did, just altering the formation of wind-breaking runners.
INEOS picked a 14-day window in which the conditions would be the best and on Oct. 12, they decided the conditions were perfect. Kipchoge started his first few miles ahead of pace. As it usually does in marathons everything looked smooth for the first 10 miles. Around halfway through the race, Kipchoge showed his first potential signs of doubt, as his times through some of the miles were behind by seconds, which added up on the back end. Kipchoge showed signs of pain through facial expression but continued to fight through in pursuit of the record.
Fans lined the streets of Vienna to encourage Kipchoge and watch as he attempted to do what runners always thought was impossible. It wasn’t until there were only a few miles left when it became clear that Kipchoge truly set out to break this barrier. When Kipchoge was nine seconds ahead of pace with only a mile left, everyone realized that he was going to succeed. In the final stretch, Kipchoge broke away from his fixed pace and crossed the finish line at 1 hour, 59 minutes, 40 seconds, and was immediately greeted by his family and trainers.
“Together, when we run, we can make this world a beautiful world,” Kipchoge commented afterward to reporters.