5 Lessons Learnt from Eliud Kipchoge’s Sub 2-Hour Marathon

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On Saturday 12th October 2019, Eliud Kipchoge ran a marathon in 1 hour, 59 minutes and 40 seconds. The first human in history to run 26.2 miles under 2 hours. In Eliud’s post-race interview, his words gave me the chills. When asked about what he had just accomplished, Kipchoge said ‘no human is limited’. His known phrase of choice. In this article I’ll summarise the lessons I learnt from watching Kipchoge run the first sub 2-hour marathon.

Who is Eliud Kipchoge?

Eliud Kipchoge is the greatest marathon runner of all time. He is an Olympic gold medallist and the current marathon (official event) world record holder.

Kipchoge’s consistency, dogged determination and love for the sport make him a running icon. If anybody could run a marathon in under 2 hours, it would definitely be Kipchoge.

The background behind the sub 2-hour marathon

Before the Inoes challenge where the feat was accomplished, Nike conducted the ‘Breaking2’ project from 2016 to May 2017. The project saw Nike organise a team of three elite runners (Eliud Kipchoge, Zersenay Tadese and Lelisa Desisa) in a formal effort to break the 2-hour marathon mark.

After much publicity, training and the creation of a special shoe called the ‘Vapor Fly Elite’ for the attempt, the effort failed with Kipchoge missing out on the time by 26 seconds.

Many have said that it was this attempt which gave Kipchoge a glimpse of victory and ultimately inspired him to successfully achieve the feat 2 years later.

In 2019, Kipchoge teamed up with Ineos and announced they would be taking on the ‘Ineos 1:59’ challenge. This time, Kipchoge would take on the event as a solo effort with the financial backing and support of Ineos.

Kipchoge succeeded in his effort to break the 2-hour mark by 20 seconds. A momentous testament to human endeavour and willpower.

Though the run has not been formally recognised as a world record because of the it set up (like the coach bringing Kipchoge drinks throughout) it is still the first time in known history that a human has run a marathon distance below 2 hours. I deem it as true inspiration.

Just how fast is a sub 2-hour marathon?

It’s a pace of 4:34 per mile or 2:51 per kilometre. To give perspective, the fastest anybody had ever run a mile in 1855 was 4:28. Eliud needed to run just off this pace for 26 consecutive miles.

The speed Kipchoge needed to run to accomplish the challenge was 13.1 miles per hour for 26.2 miles straight. ‘The mans a machine’ as this YouTuber says. Go to 2:10 in the video for a treadmill representation of how fast Kipchoge will need to run.

 

My immediate reaction to Kipchoge crossing the line and his words of wisdom

‘This is history unfolding on the streets of Vienna this morning… listen to the noise. The crowd getting right behind him… Neil Armstrong we had on the moon in 1969, Roger Bannister the four-minute mile 65 years ago, Edmund Hilary the first man to climb Everest in 1953. We have 1 minute, Eliud Kipchoge is on his way here… Now through hard work and discipline… Eliud Kipchoge has the hand of history on his shoulder.’

The words from the commentator in the clip as Kipchoge crosses the line should be enough to give anyone goose bumps.

Watching the athlete accelerate in an almost superhuman manner towards the finish line, pointing to the crowd for cheering and encouragement, was incredible. Knowing that Kipchoge had dreamed of this moment for almost 3 years, since the original Nike Breaking2 challenge was announced, made it extra special. Dreams can come true and Kipchoge has proved it.

After Kipchoge crossed the line and was interviewed, he said “It is a great feeling to make history in sport after Sir Roger Bannister [set the first sub-four-minute mile] in 1954. I am the happiest man in the world to be the first human to run under two hours and I can tell people that no human is limited. I expect more people all over the world to run under two hours after today.”

He even took time to congratulate and thank the pacemakers. “The pacemakers did a great job; they are among the best runners of all time. I thank them and appreciate them for accepting to do the job.

Powerful words from an incredibly humble and inspirational human being.

What lessons can we learn from Kipchoge’s sub 2-hour marathon?

1. If you don’t succeed, try again

Some people don’t know but Kipchoge failed his first attempt to break the 2-hour marathon. In May 2017, he came in 26 seconds shy of the mark in Nike’s ‘Breaking2’ attempt.

Watching Kipchoge cross the line, you can see he is clearly distraught at failing. However, he didn’t throw in the towel and accept he will never be able to complete the sub 2-hour marathon. Instead, he teamed up with Ineos for another attempt two years later which resulted in success.

Imagine if Eliud gave into defeat and firmly believed he had been beaten. He would have lived with failure on his shoulders rather than the hand of history. The sub 2-hour marathon would have been unbroken, and everybody would still believe that it was an impossible time.

But that’s not what happened. Kipchoge didn’t throw in the towel. When he didn’t succeed the first time, he tried again, and he was successful. Because of Kipchoge’s resilience, the challenge was broken and humans not believe that a sub 2-hour marathon is possible and that ‘no human is limited’.

We can all take a lesson from Kipchoge’s resilient reaction to defeat. We’ve all been guilty, at some point in our lives, of quitting something once the going got tough and we failed the first time.

Whether it’s running a target time in a race, passing an exam, speaking in public, eating healthily to lose weight, reading 1 book a month or even cooking a certain meal. We all have goal to want to achieve in our lives.

The likelihood of achieving what we want first time around is slim and initial failure is the more likely outcome. However, it’s how we handle the failure that determines whether we eventually succeed or fail in accomplishing our goal.

If you don’t run a sub 20-minute 5K this week, try again next week. If you’ve gorged on crisps and sweets during a diet, it’s time for a fresh start tomorrow. When the exam paper comes back with a ‘fail’, book another exam immediately. If we face our failures by coming back stronger and more tenacious in our next attempt, we’re more likely to succeed.

Like Kipchoge did with his second attempt at a sub 2-hour marathon, don’t give up after initial failure. Keep trying until you succeed.

2. Push your limits


‘I don’t know where the limits are, but I would like to go there.’  – Eliud Kipchoge


If there’s one thing the Ineos 1:59 challenge achieved, it was pushing the limits of human ability to a new place.

A sub 2-hour marathon had never been accomplished before and – like the 4-minute mile – lots of people believed it could not be done. Like those who achieve extraordinary things, Kipchoge didn’t listen to the non-believers and proved that a sub 2-hour marathon could be achieved.

Kipchoge said afterwards that he expected lots of people to run sub 2-hour marathons now because he had proved that it could be done and people’s perspective on what is physically possible will change.

It is only because Kipchoge dared to push his limits that he was able to achieve a sub 2-hour marathon. Previously, he had run the Breaking2 Nike marathon in 2 hours 25 seconds which he could have comfortably believed was his limit.

However, Kipchoge tweeted that he ‘didn’t know where the limits are’ and that he ‘would like to go there’ which manifested itself in his spectacular sub 120-minute time.  A fantastic example we should apply to our own lives.

As Kipchoge so brilliantly said in the above quote, many of us don’t know where our limits are in life. However, many of us never go to our limits or find out what we are truly capable of when we push ourselves to the edge.

We may think that we have peaked in certain aspects of our lives but that isn’t the case because we don’t push ourselves further. Many of us are good at what we do but, if we push our limits, we can become great at what we do.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a good musician, writer, businessperson, painter, athlete, photographer or teacher. You can be much better than what you are if you push your limits by going the extra mile.

Read that extra article, run the extra miles, practice that extra hour, ask for that extra feedback, make that extra call. Those who push themselves beyond what they know they are capable of become great in their chosen field and excel above those that are merely average.

Take a lesson out of Kipchoge’s sub 2-hour run. It’s okay to not know where your limits are, nobody really knows. Just make sure you try to push your limits every single day. Find out what you are capable of.

3. Set an inspiring example to others


‘In life we hope to inspire others.’ – Eliud Kipchoge


Moments after crossing the line, Kipchoge said how happy he was to ‘inspire many people’ around the world and he wanted to prove that ‘no human is limited.’ Inspirational words from an inspirational athlete. A true role model that many people look up to.

Kipchoge is looked up to by millions and his powerful speech of wanting to inspire others through extraordinary actions conveys his remarkable work ethic and determined values.  After Kipchoge accomplished the sub 2-hour feat, the incredible reaction from millions around the world made me realise how important inspiring examples are.

People look up to those who accomplish extraordinary things with respect, admiration and for guidance on work ethics and morals. People who have inspiring examples are more likely to do wonderful things with their lives. If we take a leaf out of Kipchoge’s book, we can consciously try to set inspiring examples to others in our daily lives so those around us feel empowered to act for the greater good.

In our daily lives, many of us are role models without even realising it. By definition, a role model is ‘a person whose behaviour, example or success is or can be emulated by others, especially by young people.’ In other words, the people who look up to us follow our example, mimicking the behaviours and mindsets we display.

If you have children, you will know this to be true. If your children see you being a happy, hard-working and caring individual then they are more likely to emulate this behaviour and live by your example.

Therefore, it’s important that we set powerful and inspiring examples in our everyday lives. To set a good example try to demonstrate confidence and leadership, communicate with everyone, show respect for others, work hard, do what you love, have humility to admit mistakes, learn every day and have a determined work ethic.

By living with purpose, with a set of ethical principles and moral values, we can empower those around us to live extraordinary lives and do remarkable things.

4. Dream big

Kipchoge has never been one for small goals. Instead, he dreams bigger than most people and sets his goals exceptionally high.

Before he started on the line for the 2018 Berlin Marathon, Kipchoge didn’t just want to win the race. He wanted to set a new official marathon world record. His dream came true. Not only did he win the race, but he broke the world record by a whopping 78 seconds.

By announcing that he had the ambition to break the 2-hour marathon, Kipchoge clearly had a huge dream.

Having the audacity to dream so big and ask the question ‘what if’ meant Kipchoge had the right mindset for tackling the challenge successfully. By wanting such an ambitious goal, Kipchoge opened the door up to tonnes of questions like ‘how can I best train for this challenge?’, ‘what team do I need to build?’ and ‘how can I improve performance to achieve the sub 2 mark?’.

Setting the huge dream meant Kipchoge had to ask huge questions as to how he intended to accomplish the dream. By setting himself the lofty goal, he put himself in good stead for preparing effectively to achieve it. As we know, he beat the sub 2-hour mark by a whopping 20 seconds. Dreaming big clearly works.

If we dreamed big in our lives, who knows what we would accomplish. Imagine if you aimed for a distinction in an exam rather than a pass. What if you wanted to land 5 new clients instead of 1? Imagine wanting a sub 3-hour marathon rather than a sub 3-hour 10 marathon or making £1,000,000 in a year rather than £100,000.

By setting these bigger goals we are more likely to achieve more because we ask ourselves what we need to do to accomplish the goals. For instance, landing 5 clients instead of 1 will probably require 5 times more calls than normal whilst running a sub 3-hour marathon will mean more quality training sessions than you’d usually do.

As you’ve set yourself a lofty target, you’re more likely to put extra measures in place to work towards and hit the target. If worse comes to worse and you don’t quite achieve your goal, you’re likely to have done better than you first anticipated, and you can always try again in true Kipchoge fashion.

Be like Eliud Kipchoge. Dream big.

To help you keep track of your progress towards achieving dreams, it may be worth getting yourself a dream journal. 

5. Value your team


‘What does it take? It takes a team.’ – Eliud Kipchoge


Something that makes Eliud Kipchoge one of the humblest human beings on the planet is the sheer respect he has for his teammates.

When asked about his pacemakers after the race, a massive grin immediately sweeps across Kipchoge’s face. He says his pacemakers are ‘among the best athletes in the whole world’, and he thanked them for accepting to ‘do the job’ and ‘we made history together.’

It could have been easy for Kipchoge to have lapped up all the praise for being the first person to run a sub 2-hour marathon but instead he chooses to acknowledge the fantastic efforts of his teammates. Clearly, Kipchoge values his team. A lesson we can take from this amazing achievement.

We are surrounded by teams in our every day lives. Whether that team is our family in the home, colleagues in an organisation, teammates in a sports team or musicians in a band, teams are essential or our everyday life.

Whether you’re team leader or a member of the team that helps it function properly, be sure to value each and every team member you have. Why? If one person in the team fails, everyone fails.

As the saying goes, a team is only as strong as it’s weakest member. Whatever you’re trying to achieve, you will probably need a well-functioning team with strong morale. Do get to this point, try of valuing your team on a regular basis.

Go out of your way to socially interact with teammates, compliment colleagues when they do a good job, give credit where it is due, remind yourself of your vision as often as possible.

When your team feels valued, they are more likely to work harder, believe in what they are doing and be more pleasant to be around. Be like Kipchoge and value your team.

 

There we have it. 5 lessons I learnt from watching Kipchoge complete the extraordinary sub 2-hour marathon on 12th October 2019. Who knows what the future will hold for Kipchoge, the marathon record and for running as a sport?

One thing is for sure; I will be watching with open eyes and encourage fellow running lovers to do the same. Until next time, happy running.

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