Eliud Kipchoge’s marathon record excites scientists

Saturday May 13 2017

Rio Olympics Games marathon gold medallist Eliud Kipchoge crosses the finish line. PHOTO | AFP

Athletics history was made on May 6 at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza Formula One Grand Prix in Monza, the spiritual home of auto racing in Italy, best described as the “temple of speed.”

That history was made by man, not machine. The man is Kenyan Olympic marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge who set out to break the two hour barrier in the full marathon. He missed the record by a mere 25 seconds. He clocked two hours and 25 seconds, the fastest time ever attained in a full marathon.

Expectedly, the performance has caused excitement in the world of athletics, with calling the performance a “recalibration of what is humanly possible,” and kicking off a debate on not if the barrier will be broken but when. Sports scientists had predicted man can only break the under two hour marathon barrier in 2070.

What is clear though is that this will be achieved by an African, most probably from East Africa, possibly a Kenyan or Ethiopian aided by a runner like Ugandan Joshua Cheptegei setting the pace as he demonstrated at the Kampala IAAF World Cross Country Championships in March.

Kipchoge’s success can be attributed to the work of a team of dedicated runners based at the Sports Communication High Altitude Centre in Kaptagat near Eldoret in Kenya’s Rift Valley, which is also home to several top Ugandan runners including London Olympic Marathon champion Godfrey Kiprotich, who is Kipchoge’s friend and training partner.

Kipchoge’s time will not however be recognised by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) because the race failed to meet IAAF rules of having intermediate pacing by a group of pacesetters. Nevertheless, his achievement has opened another chapter of sports medicine and scientific discourse on human physiology.