Eliud Kipchoge is the only man in the world who possesses the ability to break the unimaginable two-hour barrier in the marathon, and the 34-year-old Kenyan knows he must quickly capitalize on his physical talents to ensure that he’s the first to do it. A hallowed mark that once seemed generations away nearly became reality two years ago for Kipchoge, and now an even better version of the greatest marathoner of all-time will take on 1:59 for the second time this October in London, an attempt that has been labeled the Ineos 1:59 Challenge.
As the promotional video suggests, Kipchoge accomplishing this goal would be akin to other ground-breaking moments throughout human history have inspired millions and paved the way for future generations. Kipchoge will try to join the astronauts from the first moon landing, the climbers who braved Mt. Everest in 1953 and Roger Bannister as legends of both mind and body.
Here are five takeaways from Kipchoge going for sub-2:00 once again this fall:
Kipchoge’s Greatest Motivation Is Becoming Historical Icon
By associating his second sub-2 marathon attempt with some of the greatest “firsts” in human history-- the moon landing, the summit of Mt. Everest and of course, Roger Bannister’s sub-4:00-- Eliud Kipchoge has made clear who he sees as his peers.
Sub 2 Part 2 pic.twitter.com/ipHwwxZhIy— FloTrack (@FloTrack) May 6, 2019
The greatest marathoner ever isn’t a title that Kipchoge is satisfied with; instead, he’s hoping to stretch his incomparable physical talent, mental fortitude and scientific resources to accomplish a feat that will transcend sport to make him a legend in the vein of Buzz Aldrin, Sir Edmund Hillary and Bannister.
1:59 For Kipchoge Is Not Just Possible, It Will Be Expected This Time
Kipchoge came up approximately 150 meters short of 1:59:59 in his first attempt two years ago when he ran 2:00:25 in Monza, Italy, and the expectation no doubt will be for him to break two hours this go-around. As insane as that sentence would have been before his 2:00:25 marathon, back when scientists were insisting that sub-two was still more than a decade away, Kipchoge has fast-forwarded time by knocking on the door in 2017 and then continuing to improve since.
Even as he approaches his mid-30s, Kipchoge has seemingly only gotten better since his first attempt, as he utterly smashed the world record last September (2:01:39) before dazzling again in London two weeks ago in 2:02:37. Kipchoge had “only” run 2:03:05 before the Breaking2 event, and with his physical improvements combined with the added benefit of having previously run in a hyper-controlled environment, it’s conceivable to imagine Kipchoge running under two hours this time.
A Very Rich Man And His Controversial Company Are Funding All Of This
If you were among those slightly jaded by Nike’s Breaking2 Event since it had all the makings of a giant shoe advertisement-- remember, the now ubiquitous Zoom Vaporfly 4% that Kipchoge wore in 2017 was touted as a miracle shoe and then released just two months later-- prepare yourself to possibly feel conflicted once more.
The Ineos 1:59 Challenge is being funded by Ineos CEO Jim Ratcliffe, the richest man in Britain ($13.3 billion net worth) and owner of a chemical company that has been derided in recent protests for its fracking practices. Fracking, for those not aware, is an oil and natural gas extraction process that causes a litany of negative environmental side effects at a time when climate change is perhaps the greatest threat facing mankind.
Anti-Ineos protesters demonstrated over the weekend at the Tour de Yorkshire, a cycling event in northern England that featured Ratcliffe’s recently renamed Team Ineos. Who knows if Kipchoge’s attempt will garner a similar response this fall, but by aligning himself with this company, the Kenyan has certainly opened himself up to ridicule.
Kipchoge Doesn’t Give A Crap About The Race Meeting IAAF’s Specs
We don’t yet know where in London the attempt will take place-- one early proposal is Battersea Park, a 200-acre space that could accommodate a crowd of 250,000-- but there’s no doubt that this spectacle will look different from the closed course, F1 track that was attended primarily by Nike folks and invited media members. Even with the potential for a freaking sub-two hour marathon, a quarter-million people seems quite ambitious, but the point is that organizers want this race to look more like the Super Bowl than a science experiment.
What won’t look different is the basic methodology used in Nike’s event that Ineos will copy-- a pace car that doubles as a wind blocker and a roster of interchangeable pacers-- that will once again make the race ineligible for IAAF record purposes. But Kipchoge doesn’t care about a governing body legitimizing his time, as a man with a massive outlier of a world record has already proven himself within the confines of the rules.
“It’s not about the IAAF, it’s about history,” he told The Guardian. “I really want to leave a big legacy.”
Late September To Mid-October Will Be A Two Week Running Bonanza
No matter when the actual attempt takes place-- the tentative date is October 13, but that’s flexible as organizers will seek perfect conditions-- we can already count on the two week span from late September to mid-October being absolutely bananas for running fans. Not only will the 2019 World Championships (Sep. 28 to Oct. 6) wrap up just days before Kipchoge goes for athletic immortality (at least that’s the idea for now), but the Berlin (Sep. 29) and Chicago Marathons (Oct. 13) will also take place around this time frame, making for arguably the craziest half a month in track and field history.
As such, the question of which athletes will be able to assist Kipchoge in this endeavor seems pertinent even at this early juncture. Nike was able to deploy an army of Nike-sponsored elites for their event, but no such obvious candidates exist as of now, especially with two major marathons and the biggest track meet of the year happening right around the same time. Of course, there are athletes outside of those competitions that can run 4:35 miles for long stretches, but this effort will require Kipchoge to look outside of his fellow Nike co-workers to find help.
Who knows who will make up his entire pace team, but Kipchoge can already count on Olympic silver medalist Paul Chelimo: