RIANG’A :The science of running and why G.O.A.T Kipchoge needs a miracle

RIANG’A :The science of running and why G.O.A.T Kipchoge needs a miracle

Expectations are high, the challenge is already set – Vienna, Austria is the venue for the INEOS 1:59 Challenge which will be going down this Saturday and the world will be following keenly as it unfolds, every soul watching with batted breath as a skinny man from Kenya aims to do the undoable in history – run a marathon in under two hours.

Eliud Kipchoge, born on November 5, 1987 in Kapsisiywa village, Nandi county will be running against time or the clock if you so wish, aiming to do the unthinkable.

Kipchoge, the man liked for his humility despite his global star status has had a good career in the field of athletics managing to bag medal after medal in each of the marathons he has participated in, the most recent one being the Berlin Marathon in which he holds a blistering 2:01:39 record in September 2018.

Ran faster before

Kipchoge got an impressive 2.00.25 in Monza, Italy, in May 2017 but fell short of the remaining barriers in athletics. On Saturday he picks the pieces from where he left, the goal being to go in the Guinness World Records . He’ll run a flat 5.97 mile loop with no gradient 4.4 times (a total of 26.2 miles) in a bid to make history.

Past track record

Kipchoge won the Berlin Marathon in 2015. His win and then personal best time (2:04:00) occurred even though his shoes malfunctioned, causing his insoles to flap out of both shoes from 10 km onward; rather than risk time lost from an adjustment, he finished the race with bloodied, blistered feet!

In April 2016, Kipchoge won the London Marathon for the second consecutive year in a time of 2:03:05. His performance broke the course record in London, and became the second-fastest marathon time in history, missing Dennis Kimetto’s world record by 8 seconds.

On 20 November 2016, Kipchoge ran in the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon, winning the race with a time of 59:44.

On 6 May 2017, Kipchoge, alongside Zersenay Tadese (then world record holder in the half marathon) and Lelisa Desisa (two-time Boston Marathon winner), attempted the first sub-two-hour assisted marathon, in the Nike Breaking 2 project on the Monza Formula 1 racetrack near Milan, Italy. All the three runners ran a test two months before the attempt. The target time was 1 hour for a half marathon. Kipchoge finished first in 59:17.

The course was measured with 2400m. During the 2 hour attempt, the runners were paced by a lead car and 30 supporting pacers joining in stages (both considered illegal under IAAF rules).The race started at 5:45am local time on the 2.4 km track. Kipchoge finished in 2:00:25, while the other two had to slow and finished far behind.

The runners planned even 14:13 5k splits to break 2 hours. His 5k splits were: 14:14, 14:07, 14:13, 14:15, 14:14, 14:17, 14:17, 14:27, and 6:20 to finish.

On 24 September 2017, he won the Berlin Marathon in a time of 2:03:32. Under rainy conditions, he finished 14 seconds ahead of Guye Adola who ran his first marathon. Adola set the fastest marathon debut ever. Former marathon world record holder Wilson Kipsang and 2016 winner Kenenisa Bekele failed to finish.

“In an astonishing performance at the 2018 BMW Berlin Marathon, Kipchoge took marathoning into a new stratosphere by clocking 2:01:39 – the first man ever under 2:02, and a full 78 seconds faster than Dennis Kimetto’s four-year-old world record.

It was a performance so far superior to anything we’ve seen before that comparing it to another marathon feels inadequate. This was Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game in basketball, Usain Bolt’s 9.58 in the 100-meter dash.

Kipchoge won the 2018 London Marathon against a field that included Mo Farah, a four-time Olympics gold medalist, who finished third with a time of 2:06:32 in his second marathon, Kenenisa Bekele who is a three-time Olympic gold medalist and World Record holder  in 5,000m and 10,000m as well as  defending champion Daniel Wanjiru.

INEOS the nut to crack

Jamaican Usain Bolt is presumably one of the fastest men on earth. An eight-time Olympic gold medallist, Bolt is the only sprinter to win Olympic 100m and 200m titles at three consecutive Olympics (2008, 2012 and 2016). In addition, he won two 4 × 100 relay gold medals. He gained worldwide fame for his double sprint victory in world record times at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, which made him the first person to hold both records since fully automatic time became mandatory.

Bolt’s personal best of 9.58 seconds in 2009 in the 100 metres is the fastest ever run.

Eliud Kipchoge needs a miracle to be able to splint in the INEOS 1:59 challenge. Bolt splints a 100metres race in 9.58 thus Kipchoge requires to run much faster if he’s to have that special chapter in the history book.

A marathon usually is 42km, in essence the distance is 42,000 metres once converted. The time that Eliud Kipchoge is required to run is 1hr 59mins hence Kipchoge is expected to cover 5.8 metres per second something which is practically impossible. Broken down here are the numbers.

To break the 2:00:00 barrier, Kipchoge will need to sustain a 4:34 minutes per mile pace over the distance to complete the challenge.

Alyson Felix, a US Olympic splinter in the just concluded Doha IAAF Games broke the record of Usain Bolt in the 4×400 metres relay after winning her 12th gold medal on the mixed gender relay team for most track and field competitions.

Justin Gatlin from the USA beat Usain Bolt’s 100metre  record of Rome Diamond League in 2012 of 9.76 seconds to 9.75 seconds in World Athletics Championship in Beijing in 2015. The essence of such a comparison between those two splinters is to give the idea of how difficult it is for Eliud Kipchoge to run a bigger race at a shorter period of time.

Usain Bolt and Justin Gatlin have failed to reduce the time to less than 9 seconds in a 100metre splint whereas Eliud Kipchoge hopes to run a shorter distance even within the 100metres splint he would fall short of the time since he’s expected to cover a distance of 5.8 metres per second something which he’ll not be able to achieve even with the shortest distance.

Despite the organisers of the INEOS Challenge providing all the favourable conditions for Eliud including the weather patterns, optimal temperature, humidity, wind and precipitation, a 24-hour window of no rain to keep the surfaces dry, provision of 41 pace setters to encourage Eliud Kipchoge in the race, the audience will also be in attendance along the roads to cheer Kipchoge .

Also, a closer comparison to the previous marathon clearly indicates that Eliud Kipchoge has to increase his speed and according to sports analyst Caroline Francis, the INEOS Challenge does not adhere to health standards set out by the IAAF and Kipchoge will be running with a chest full of smog and its going to pose a challenge for him to be able to run under the two hour record in marathon — no human being has ever succeeded in running at such a greater pace in history.

In previous marathons, Eliud Kipchoge has managed to run a record best of 2 hours 1 minute and 39 seconds in Berlin in September meaning that he needs to drop 26 seconds, just one second per mile to break the barrier. Another factor that is likely not to propel him further is the opponents will be lacking in this kind of challenge but it will be limited to pacesetters also impacting on the overall result.

My final take on the INEOS Marathon is that Eliud Kipchoge is not going to break the below two hours challenge because it’s not humanly possible for a human being to surpass and overcome all those barriers a fact which Kipchoge himself has noted and wants to try and demystify this coming Saturday . Its mission impossible for Eliud Kipchoge !


Patrick Riang’a is a veteran sports commentator