Eliud Kipchoge loves breaking down barriers.
Like the world’s leading pole-vaulters who, in recent weeks, have taken to virtual competitions to provoke the adrenalin rush, Kipchoge too wants to get going.
The coronavirus pandemic having scattered his spring marathon plans — most significantly his marathon duel with Ethiopian legend Kenenisa Bekele on the streets of London — Kipchoge is relishing a fresh challenge.
After all, as his mantra goes, “no human is limited.”
On Saturday, the world marathon record holder was at the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in central Kenya for a “recce” ahead of his next big thing: The Virtual Lewa Safari Marathon Challenge on June 27.
With elephants, buffaloes and other wildlife providing a spectacular spectator backdrop, Kipchoge had Lewa’s rangers for pacemakers as he surveyed the now famous Safaricom Lewa Marathon course.
This year’s race would have been run under a new name: The Lewa Safari Marathon. But it was put off due to the coronavirus pandemic.
However, the conservancy has come up with the fresh idea of the virtual marathon challenge.
And they couldn’t have secured a better ambassador than Kipchoge, the first man to run the marathon in under two hours.
Flown in from his base in Eldoret, Kipchoge joined six rangers for Saturday’s practice run with world half marathon record holder Geoffrey Kamworor in tow.
The entourage also included Toronto Marathon course record holder Philemon Rono and Jonathan Korir, a 2:06:45 marathoner.
The Virtual Lewa Safari Marathon Challenge will be run in support of conservation as a stop-gap replacement for the traditional race that has raised Sh50 million annually for conservation, community development and education projects across Kenya
For Saturday’s training run, apart from the rangers, Kipchoge and co. were joined by Sarah Watson, the Director of Programmes in Africa for conservation concern Tusk Trust, and Lewa’s head of anti-poaching Edward Ndiritu.
Lewa and Tusk Trust are the organisers of the annual marathon in the conservancy.
“I urge everybody to participate and just run where they are. We are all part of the human family and we must keep strong, stay fit, observe directives from our government, and know this situation is not permanent,” Kipchoge appealed.
“I have never taken part in the Lewa (Safari) Marathon before, but it was very inspiring to run with the rangers today in this beautiful conservancy and motivate them.
“I would ask the rangers to continue doing a good job, because they are conserving our wildlife and environment. I would also encourage them to stay positive, focused and continue doing what they’re doing despite the challenges they’re facing.”
The rangers were overwhelmed at the rare opportunity of running alongside the Olympic marathon champion.
“My team and I are honoured and very excited to have run with Eliud and his team today,” Ndiritu said.