On October 12th, I was glued to my iPad for (less than) two hours as I watched one of the most beautiful displays of sporting power as Eliud Kipchoge broke the two-hour marathon. Not a record, however, as it was done with pacemakers and wasn’t in a race. But still, as he ran, extremely comfortably, at just over 20kph and then in the last few minutes managed to ramp that pace up to cross the finish line in 1 hour 59 minuets and 40 seconds I had goose bumps and maybe a few tears of complete awe at human ability, speed and natural capability as I watch history being made.
On the back of this, someone asked. ‘What is a marathon exactly, is it a distance or is it a race?’
We have to go back to 2nd Century AD, when Pheidippides, a solider, ran from Marathon to Athens to deliver news of victory over the Persians. In Athens in 1896, at the first modern Olympics, an event recalling the glory of Ancient Greece was required and the marathon was born.
So maybe it is a combination of both race and distance. You have to run the distance of 42km for it to be a marathon and marathon races normally take place on the road but that is not to say you can’t do a trail marathon race. The word ‘marathon’ is also used to describe something that is long-lasting or a difficult activity.
I know many wish that the sub two-hour marathon had been achieved in a race situation, for a title or championship, but doesn’t this just show that maybe one day it will be done that way. It will take a while I’m sure, but let’s not take anything away from the fact that Eliud and his army put on a stunning display, so beautifully executed. View it purely as a demonstration of what can be achieved. Eliud ran a pace so fast that every 5km his pacers had to switch for new ones.
If I was to question anything, it wouldn’t be how it was done. Eliud ran that on his own two feet. It would be, why the pin on numbers? All the science and expense. There must be a reason numbers where used in a non-race situation. And there is, nothing was missed in this sub-two-hour mission. Numbers or bibs where used to identify the pacers for commentary. I would then suggest printed names on the athletes tops but apparently from an aerodynamic perspective pin-on numbers create a wake, this helped the air to distribute around the pacers better and the formation success was dependent on the pacers creating this wake.
Some are convinced this was not the way to break the two-hour marathon. I doubt anything I write will change that opinion, so I’ll just say what it meant for me. It represented hope, that together we can be better, that nothing is impossible and that maybe Eliud is right, a running world is a peaceful world.