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Inside the Two-Hour Marathon – How the Impossible was Achieved

Inside the Two-Hour Marathon – How the Impossible was Achieved

History was made on 12th October, when Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge achieved a feat that many people have deemed to be impossible throughout the ages. More specifically, he broke one of the last frontiers in sport in the form of the two-hour marathon barrier in Vienna, romping home in a time of 1:59:40 in Vienna.

The time will not be recognised as a world record, of course, as the race wasn’t competitive, and Kipchoge was able to use a rotating group of pacemakers to help achieve the world-record time. However, this shouldn’t detract from the enormity of the achievement, or the work that went into to beating such a landmark.

In this post, we’ll go behind the scenes at the ‘Ineos 1:59 Challenge’, and ask how history was made in the Austrian capital.

The Brains Behind the Ineos 1:59 Challenge

This record-breaking time trial was funded by Ineos, which is a British chemicals company that’s backed by the UK’s richest man.

Jim Ratcliffe, who boasts an estimated fortune of £20 billion, certainly oversaw a significant investment into the event, which is the latest of several sports franchises to have evolved under the Ineos brand.

These include a cycling team that competes in the Tour de France, along with Ligue 1 side OGC Nice (who were acquired earlier this year). The Ineos Team UK will also compete at the 2021 America’s Cup event, having partnered with luxury brand Belstaff that’s synonymous with high quality outdoor wear and leather jackets.

Whilst some have suggested that Ratcliffe is engaging in the controversial practice of ‘sportswashing’ (which refers to the process of reputation laundering through sports and high-profile events), there’s no doubt that the 1:59 challenge and Kipchoge’s accomplishments would not have been possible but for the British entrepreneur’s endeavour.

Kipchoge’s Run – How Did the Kenyan Rise to the Occasion?

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Marathon running has always been fascinating from both a physical and a psychological perspective, with various barriers having been broken throughout history.

This was even evident in the 1950s, when the public became engrossed by the idea of running a sub-four-minute mile. However, the Ineos 1:59 Challenge arguably captured the public’s imagination like never before, largely because some experts have suggested that running a sub-two-hour marathon is realistically impossible.

Eliud Kipchoge
Eliud Kipchoge

However, physiologists have previously posited that the feat was at least physically possible, with medical student Michael Joyner calculating that the fastest marathon time for an elite athlete in optimal conditions is 1:57:58. This will have undoubtedly have inspired Kipchoge, who will have arrived in Vienna high on confidence given the team of pacemakers at his disposal.

The Kenyan certainly worked tirelessly to maintain his own relentless pace during the race, with an average time of 4:34.5 per mile for each of the 26.2 miles completed. It’s also worth noting that Kipchoge never allowed his pace to fall behind the initial target time of 1:59:59, and this is a testament to the runner’s incredible composure and stamina.

So, whilst Kipchoge was undoubtedly set up to succeed, it cannot be argued that the runner’s incredible dedication and aptitude played an influential role in one of the greatest ever sporting achievements.

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