Making the impossible possible?
The athletics family is still absorbing the surprise news that Eliud Kipchoge's next target may be a further attempt at the sub-two-hour marathon with support from keen runner and Britain's richest man, Sir Jim Ratcliffe, 66, the owner of petrochemical company INEOS, who recently took over Team Sky cycling group.
Demonstrating a true understanding of historic athletics achievements, the announcement was made at Iffley Road running track in Oxford on the 65th anniversary of Roger Bannister's 'impossible' first sub-four-minute mile.
runABC reporter Alan Newman, a former member of Oxford City AC, has personally witnessed some phenomenal athletics world records but is wondering if the question we should be asking is not will Kipchoge run 1:59 in Battersea Park on 13 October (one date and venue that has been mooted) but should he even make the attempt?
Kipchoge's coach, Patrick Sang has no doubt he can improve his world record (2:01:39) set in Berlin last year and feels his athlete had more to give in London last month, given the windy conditions, pace making issues and tactics necessary to secure the victory. Sang's most telling comment after Kipchoge's second fastest ever official marathon (2:02:37) was: “We can never understand the capacity of what a human mind can do”.
Note the reference to the mind, rather than the physical side of Kipchoge's astonishing result. For an insight into whether this extraordinary man can do the 'impossible', we hear from the 34-year-old Kenyan, who wore controversial Nike Next% shoes that are said to provide 5% improvement in running economy: “This would really surpass everything, because this will go in the history as far as the human family is concerned”, said Kipchoge at the event launch.
Kipchoge went on to confirm he would employ similar techniques that were a big part of his ultimately unsuccessful attempt on the Monza racetrack in 2017, when he ran 2:00:25 behind a wind-shielding pace car, with a rotating team of pacemakers, on a 17-lap circuit that was flat and smooth as possible. This, of course, means any improvement would not result in an official world record but that is of little concern to the single-minded Kipchoge, who added: “It's not about the IAAF, it's about history. I really want to leave a big legacy”.
There is no doubt Kipchoge has the talent, uniquely allied to mental strength, to crash through the ultimate barrier in marathon running but this writer is still troubled by the second part of the question above. Kipchoge is currently 100 seconds shy of the sub-two-hour marathon in conventional circumstances, representing a differential of 1.37%, or less than 4 seconds per mile.
Should he make the impossible possible in the 'INEOS 2:59 Challenge' this year he will enter history as the fastest marathon runner ever and a barrier breaker but if he managed the feat in an official race, like Bannister, he would surely have achieved immortality.
Image courtesy INEOS 2:59 Challenge/Eliud Kipchoge