[Article by Tait Hearps of Sweat Elite]
London 2018 was run in the hottest conditions on record, with the mercury reaching 23.2 degrees Celsius on a sweltering day in the British capital. Eliud Kipchoge took out his ninth marathon victory ahead of Shura Kitata Tola, and Sir Mo Farah who made a bold statement by sticking to the scorching pace set early: breaking the British record with 2:06:21. The same three men will be lining up this Sunday along with a talented field of elites including Ethiopia’s Chicago runner-up Mosinet Geremew (PB 2:04:00), Valencia Marathon champion Leul Gebrselassie (PB 2:04:02), world silver medallist Tamirat Tola (PB 2:04:06) and Amsterdam runner-up Mule Wasihun (PB 2:04:37), along with half marathon world record holder Abraham Kiptum.
Despite the fierce competition and the depth of the field the media is paying particular attention to the British local favourite Farah, and of course the world record holder Kipchoge, billing the event as a head to head battle, as the Briton aims to build on his first major marathon win in Chicago (and European record of 2:05:11). Looking at history, Farah is clearly the underdog. The statistics fall undeniably in Kipchoge’s favour, with ten victories from the eleven marathons in which he has competed, as well as his incredible performance in Nike’s Breaking2 project (2:00:25).
However, in pre-race interviews Kipchoge has yet again displayed his humble demeanour, asserting that he is most certainly not invincible: “Mo can beat me, others can beat me, but the best thing is that if you can accept the results, that’s the only way to enjoy the sport.”
At the pre-event press conference, 61:20-61:25 was mentioned as a potential target halfway split time for the leading men’s group. Last year the leaders passed through 21.1km in 61:00.
When asked if he would stick with the leaders going out at that pace, Farah responded: “I’ll have a chat with my coach and see what we can do. If I’m feeling good, then why not?” “Chicago was 2:05, I know I can run 2:05, I know I can run 2:04-something. I’ve done some great training over the last few months.” Mo spent a significant period of his leadup to London training at 2700m in Sululta, Ethiopia. The Sweat Elite team was there for some of this, witnessing some very impressive sessions. As Mo said, “the work has been done.”
Kipchoge is also optimistic about his performance come Sunday: “Training has been going well. What can I say? I am good and I am fit.” Coming from the greatest of all time, that’s quite a statement. Kipchoge spent his pre-London training block in the village of Kaptagat in the highlands of Kenya, where he trains with his teammates year-round. Kipchoge admits that he enjoys the “simplicity” of training for a major event – “You run, eat, sleep, walk around – that’s how life is. You don’t get complicated. The moment you get complicated it distracts your mind.”
Kipchoge stormed home to a significant world record in Berlin last September, slicing 78 seconds off the previous benchmark. However, despite admitting his current good form, a world record is unlikely in London. The course in London is much less favourable than that of Berlin, the location where the men’s world record has been broken seven times in the past sixteen years.
Kipchoge is the man who has gone closest to the 2-hour mark. A barrier that once seemed an impossibility, but has entered the realm of reality following his performance in Monza 2017, where he missed the mark by 25 seconds. When asked about it he responded “One day, one time, someone will run under two hours.” Questioned as to whether he would be the man to do it – a coy “Maybe. Maybe not.” One major concern is that Kipchoge may not last long enough at his currently exceptional form, given his age. He is widely regarded to be a few years older than 34. Many East African runners often don’t have birth certificates, being born and raised in rural areas. This casts doubt on his official birth date of 5 November 1984.
Marathon running is a taxing vocation, and the number of years the body can endure such significant, sustained stress is uncertain. Kipchoge is positive when questioned on the subject of how long he has left. “You’ll still see me around,” he says. “I think there are still beautiful things in store. I am still there to do some cool things.”
Kipchoge seems certain he has a long time left at the highest level, and this weekend will undoubtedly show evidence of this. Come Sunday it will be fascinating to watch events unfold, with such a deep elite field racing the streets of London. Kipchoge says that “getting all the top guys to compete in London is a positive thing. It is a plus for the sport and a plus for the fans to see people competing.” I know that we here at Sweat Elite are very excited to watch Eliud, Mo and the others go all out, and see their arduous build-up to the event pay dividends.