Saturday, October 12, 2019

2-hour marathon barrier falls at last

Well, it had to happen: the 2-hour marathon barrier has been breached. and of course it was Kenya's Eliud  Kipchoge who made it happen. 35-year old Kipchoge, the current world record holder and widely considered the greatest marathon runner ever, has been dominant in recent years, winning 11 of his 12 major races with gradually improving times, and it seemed only matter of time before the barrier fell to him.
The race was in Vienna, Austria, and, although it was an officially-timed race, it won't count as a new world record because of the stringent rules around such things, specifically the use of 42 pacemakers (including some world elite runners in their own right) who rotated in and out throughout the race, and the delivery of water and energy gels by bike rather than the traditional method of picking them up from a table. This might seen picky-picky, but in the cut-and-thrust world of elite sports such rules are important to make sure that the conditions are equal for everyone.
Whether it counts or not, though, Kipchoge has shown that it is in fact possible. When you consider the history of marathon records, it is salutary to consider that the 1896 Olympics was won in a time of 2:58:50 (and the distance was probably well short of the official 26.2 miles or 42.195 kilometres, at that), the 2-and-a-half hour barrier was broken in 1925, and the 2-and-a-quarter hour fell in 1963. It is quite an achievement, as Kipchoge himself is not slow to acknowledge, comparing the feat to Roger Banister's 1954 four-minute mile, and even the first man on the moon!

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