Athletics: So close! Marathon champion misses 2hr mark by 25sec

MONZA (ITALY) • Eliud Kipchoge ran the quickest recorded marathon yesterday, crossing the line at the Monza Formula One track in two hours and 25 seconds. But he missed out on an ambitious attempt to break the two-hour barrier.

The 32-year-old's time smashed the official mark of 2:02:57 set by fellow Kenyan Dennis Kimetto in Berlin in 2014, but will not enter the record books largely due to a non-compliant system of pacemaking.

"This (is) not the end of the attempt of runners on two hours," the Olympic champion said after the race, likening the challenge to climbing a tree. "When you step on the branches... immediately you go to the next one."

Kipchoge - who was reportedly paid about US$1 million (S$1.4 million) to skip the London Marathon and commit himself to the attempt, with another US$1 million to come if he could run under two hours - rated it as the finest performance in a career that includes a gold at the Rio Games last year and a personal best official time of 2:03:05, the third-fastest in history.

"This journey has been good, it has been hard, it has been seven months' hard preparation. It has been history in the world of sport," he said.

Marathon runner Eliud Kipchoge crossing the finish line at the Monza Formula One track in two hours and 25 seconds.
Marathon runner Eliud Kipchoge crossing the finish line at the Monza Formula One track in two hours and 25 seconds. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

 

MAKING HISTORY

This journey has been good, it has been hard, it has been seven months' hard preparation. It has been history in the world of sport.

KENYAN ELIUD KIPCHOGE, who ran the quickest recorded marathon at the Monza Formula One track.

Kipchoge and the only other competitors, Eritrean Zersenay Tadese and Ethiopian Lelisa Desisa, ran behind an arrow-head formation of pacemakers to reduce drag, and a car beaming a green line on the road behind it to show the required speed for the sub-two-hour target.

Amid deep scepticism, Nike pitched the attempt as sport's "moon shot", with a keen eye on sales of its running shoes. It designed a lightweight shoe, Zoom Vaporfly Elite, with a carbon-fibre insole as part of the meticulous preparations. Nike's arch- rival, German firm Adidas, also has its own "Sub2" project with a new shoe.

The race began in pre-dawn gloom at a brutal speed behind pacemakers, who were world- class runners in their own right, including former world champion middle-distance runner Bernard Lagat of the United States.

The sub-two-hour mark required a pace below four minutes and 35 seconds per mile, which Kipchoge matched until falling behind the pace car in the last two laps of the 2.4km circuit. He completed the first half of the race in 59:57, just one and a half minutes off the official half-marathon world record set by yesterday's second-place finisher, Tadese.

The 35-year-old Eritrean, the oldest competitor yesterday, finished in 2:06:51, followed by the youngest, 26-year-old Desisa, in 2:14:10.

REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 07, 2017, with the headline 'So close! Marathon champion misses 2hr mark by 25sec'. Print Edition | Subscribe