After all the planning and all the hype, the time came for running and Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge was ready And he delivered!.
He completed the marathon distance in a controlled time trial in Vienna (AUT) in a historic 1:59:40.2, using a controlled pace-setting program to set him up for a final sprint that shattered the two-hour barrier, writing a new chapter in endurance performance running.
Through the first half-hour, Kipchoge, 34, ran slightly ahead of target, with the computer tracker posting a nine-second advantage against the prescribed pace. He gained a little more time in the second 30 minutes, passing the halfway park about 11 seconds ahead of pace.
The race was not eligible for record consideration as Kipchoge was the only competitor and ran in a shielded environment with teams of seven pacesetters around him – five in front and two behind – through the entire 26.2 mile distance. The pack was accompanied by a series of aids on bicycles, who provided fluids and nutrition to Kipchoge and the pacesetters throughout.
The course was 4.4 laps of a 4.3 km street course on the Prater Hauptallee in Vienna (AUT), with spectators all along the course. Right from the foggy 8:15 a.m. start, there were significant numbers of fans at the finish line – bundled up in the 50-degree (F) temperatures – with more and more lining the course during the event.
The pacing program worked perfectly, with Kipchoge clicking off kilometer after kilometer in 2:50 (~4:34.5 mile pace). The weather remained cloudy with temperatures at 51 degrees (F) after an hour and a half.
At the 90 minute-mark, the projected time was still nicely on pace at 1:59:50, and the crowd was growing. The pacing effort paid off with a metronome-like 2:50-per-kilo in kilometers 33-34-35-36-37-38-30-40.
He crossed 40 km in 1:53:36, meaning he only had to run 6:23 for the final 2.2 km (1.4 miles) to break two hours. He ran 2:49 for km 41 and the pacesetters all moved in front of Kipchoge with a kilometer to go, setting him up for the chase, and then parted to allow him to go to the lead and cross the line alone. He sprinted to the finish, celebrating with the fans and crossing in 1:59:40.2.
How good was he? Kipchoge was mobbed at the finish by his pacesetters, took a Kenyan flag and then ran – effortlessly, it appeared – up and down the final straight to share the achievement with the fans!
For Kipchoge, this effort was the culmination of a two-year effort that saw him run 2:00:25 in a similarly-controlled program at the famed auto-racing track in Monza (ITA) in 2017 and then set the world record at the Berlin Marathon in 2:01:39 on 16 September 2018.
He won at the London Marathon in late April in 2:02:37 and now made more history on Saturday morning. Kipchoge has now lowered the best-ever performance in the marathon from countryman Dennis Kimetto’s 2:02:57 in 2014 by more than three minutes in just more than five years! What’s next? What’s possible?