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Kenyan becomes first to run marathon in less than two hours

Eliud Kipchoge’s incredible time won’t be recognized as an official record

12:48 PM

Is it possible to run a marathon in less than two hours?

Olympic champion and world record holder for the marathon, Eliud Kipchoge, and his team proved Saturday morning the answer is yes.

In front of a cheering crowd, the 34-year-old Kenyan native ran 26.2 miles in an unprecedented time of 1:59:40. His average mile time was four minutes and 33 seconds. He did it in the INEOS 1.59 Challenge, a run designed specifically for him, at Prater Park in Vienna, Austria.

Soon after the event, reaction followed on social media.

After the race, Kipchoge told ESPN: “That was the best moment of my life. The pressure was very big on my shoulders. I got a phone call from the president of Kenya. I am the happiest man today.”

No doubt this accomplishment makes Kipchoge, who has already medaled in the Olympics three times and won eight major marathons, one of the greatest marathoners of all time. However, the feat will not be recognized as an official world record by the sport’s governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).

There were several reasons – Kipchoge was paced by a team of athletes including other Olympic distance runners from the U.S., Ethiopia and Uganda; a laser beam from a pace car was used to indicate the best position on the road to run; and the run was not an open competition.

The location, date and time of the run were also carefully chosen by Kipchoge’s team. Prater Park hosts a fast, flat course with little wind resistance. The humidity was low and the temperature was in the 40s. The circadian rhythms (sleep/wake cycle) of Kipchoge’s body were also monitored for the best time for him to run.

Tony Ruiz, road racing coach for the Central Park Track Club, acknowledged Kipchoge’s time as a great accomplishment but agrees with the IAAF’s stance.

“It’s not recognized as a WR [world record] for a reason! I wouldn’t put it on the same level as when the 4:00 mile was broken. It’s still a great accomplishment, but pacers help a bunch! I don’t think he’d have done it without them,” he told The Undefeated.

Anthony Reed, cofounder of the National Black Marathoners Association, feels differently.

“I think it would have been possible to do it without all of that support, but it would have taken years. It’s equivalent to when [Roger] Bannister broke the 4-minute mile. I believe others will start doing that in marathons,” he said. He was referring to Roger Bannister, the first known man to run a 3:59-minute mile in 1954.

Kipchoge’s first attempt to break two hours was documented and organized by Nike in 2017. It took place on the Formula One track in Monza, Italy, but he fell short of the goal by 26 seconds. Saturday’s run was organized by the petrochemical company INEOS. Before Saturday, Kipchoge’s best marathon time was 2:01:39.