He managed. On a cold Viennese morning, Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge, 34, made his way into racing history by completing the 42,195 km marathon in less than two hours. He crossed the finish line of the Ineos 1:59 Challenge at 1:59:40 sec.
Kip, as he is known, has been part of the hallway of fame for a few years. In Berlin in 2018, beat the mode record, with a time of 2h01min39sec. In April this year, just weeks before Saturday's challenge was announced, he established the best test mark in London: 2h02min37sec.
It was the second best in history until the Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele win the Berlin Marathon in 2019 with incredible 2h01min41sec. Still, Kip holds 3 of the top 10 marathon times.
Despite the 10 ° C that marked the thermometer at 8:15 am during the start in vienna, the local population and tourists in love with running were there to support the marathoner from an early age. The greatest concentration was, as expected, on the finish line. Over the internet, the live broadcast on Youtube reached over 700,000 who followed the challenge from a distance.
And even if a light fog covered the Austrian capital, there was no wind to hinder the Kenyan in his goal of completing the marathon distance in less than 2 hours. He did it with the quiet air of strollers in the park.
The strategy adopted, according to commentators on the official broadcast, was to run the second half as fast as the first. With this stability, he traveled the entire path ten seconds below his target time.
Kip's achievement was historic, but not for the best of times. Because it has (almost) perfect conditions, the challenge does not meet the requirements necessary to appear in the ranking.
To achieve the feat, a megastructure was assembled. One of the key elements, besides the crowd, was the pacemakers – athletes who accompany the race leader, in this case Kip, to determine the pace.
In total, 41 runners were assigned to the task. As might be expected, the mix of founders and half-founders of different nationalities featured some of the fastest men in the world.
With six reserves, the five teams of seven athletes each skirted Kip along the way, five in front and two behind. Every 9.6 km, two pacemakers were replaced.
One was the young Ethiopian Selemon Barega, 19, who won the 5,000-meter silver medal at the Doha World Athletics World Championship this year. He is the record holder at 3,000 meters and holds the second fastest time at 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters.
Also accompanying Kip was fellow Kenyan Eric Kiptanui, 29, a half-marathon expert who ranks seventh in the ranking of best brands in the sport.
But who is Eliud Kipchoge, the fastest marathon runner in history?
The youngest of five children, her parents are small farmers in Kapsisiywa, 315 km from Kenya's capital Nairobi. Little is known about the small village where the race star was born on November 5, 1984, studied at a boys' school, and even today trains nearby at the Global Sports Camp in Kaptagat, 67 kilometers away.
It was at school that she started running, casually. Sport was such a hobby that Kip never reached the level of competition in his district. Her daily life was divided between her hobby, her classes – the Kenyan enjoyed studying – and the routine of the small farm where she took care of the animals and fetched water from the nearby river with her mother.
In a letter written by the athlete himself to his younger version, published on the IAAF website, he says: “Growing up on a farm in rural Kenya will help you develop skills that will take you far in the sport. From an early age, you already have a good work ethic and self-discipline. ”
After graduating, Kip trained on his own and began participating in local cross-country races in 2001 (where terrain varies from land to grass, mountainous to flat, and distances are between 4 km and 12 km) .
In a series of competitions, he was second overall and caught the attention of Dutchman Jos Hermens, his representative to date. It was the beginning of a career of unerring precision, but one that met its delays along the way.
In the tests that would take him to the Cross Country World Championship in Dublin in 2002, he emerged. But he got sick before the competition and finished fifth. In the same year, he triumphed in the selection of the 5,000 meters for the Junior World Championship, malaria, however, took him off the slopes of Jamaica.
His career would begin to take off even the following year, when a skinny 18-year-old from the Kenyan countryside won the Cross Country World Championship in Lausanne, Switzerland. And still in 2003, the world saw the 1.67 m tall athlete win the 5,000 meters Paris World Athletics Championship.
He beat Moroccan Hicham El Guerrouj, a four-time 1,500-meter champion, and Ethiopian Keninsa Bekele, who had won 10,000 meters in that world championship. A year later, at the Athens Olympics, he won the bronze medal in the sport.
For the next nine years, Kip alternated years when he was doing well in competitions with others where his performance fell short. The lowest point of his career as a founder and half-founder was in 2012, when he missed the London Olympics at 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters.
It was that same year, however, that the Kenyan turned into the marathon. In September, he made his first 21,097 km in the race in Lille, France. Finished in third place. He ran some more races in the distance in 2012 and 2013 – the year that debuted in the sport that would raise his name among the world's top athletes.
In April of that year, it won the Hamburg Marathon in Germany. In September, he chased after Wilson Kipsang (who broke the world record at the time) at the Berlin Marathon, but took second place. It is the only proof of the sport, of the 12 that participated to this day, in which it carries a defeat.
The string of good results led him to Nike's Breaking2 challenge, which sponsors him to this day. The goal was as ambitious as now, but for 26 seconds he failed to break the two-hour barrier.
And in addition to marathon victories, the Kenyan's life has two striking presences: the coach, Patrick Sang (whom the athlete sees much more as a mentor and father figure since he has never met his father) and the books. He loves self-help works and biographies.
“Who Stirred My Cheese” is a favorite. For Kip, it is as relevant to a businessman as it is to an athlete and excellent at helping to cope with change. The Kenyan has already changed the history of the marathon. And now, what will be your next achievement?