To update:On October 12, 2019, Kipchoge set a new unofficial marathon record when he ran 26.2 miles in 1:59:40 on a purpose-built course in Vienna, Austria. The record is not official because he did not run it during an open marathon and used a pacemaker. Still, it's a remarkable feat that many thought impossible. Watch the video below of Kipchoge crossing the finish line and read on to learn about the years of training he put into getting here.
– Eliud Kipchoge (@EliudKipchoge)12. October 2019
Eliud Kipchoge has cemented his status as one of the most successful long-distance runners of all time.
The 34-year-old decorated Kenyan marathoner has taken seven first places in eight career marathons, crossing the finish lines at intervals of less than five minutes. His personal best is a lightning-fast 2:03:05.
And yet Kipchoge exudes none of the arrogance so common among today's McGregors and Ronaldos. Instead, the self-made millionaire with the megawatt smile displays a monk's zen and unwavering positivity. He approaches the sport with a lion-hearted pride, and that's exactly how he trains.
Agile, almost feline, Kipchoge moves as he walks through his training group. Every movement of its 5'6″ frame, from arm pump to stomp, is calculated and accurate. He's built like a human for marathons, making him a "unique problem" for sports scientists as he and two other runners, Zersenay Tadese, 35, and Lelisa Desisa, 27, attempted Nike's lofty goal of a two-hour run -Break marathon.
If you saw (or watched) the monumental Breaking2 attempt in Monza, Italy, you know that Kipchoge missed 1:59:59 but set the (unofficial) fastest time of all time at 2:00:25. National Geographic has partnered with Nike to chronicle Kipchoge's journey. Here's what it took to shave his time by 2.5 minutes, what it took to optimize the conditions for the "perfect marathon," and how scientists tackled the greatest challenge of all: improving a virtually flawless one runners.
In search of Kipchoge's "Achilles heel"
First, it's important to understand why Kipchoge is so talented: he has an above-average training capacity, an exceptional oneVO2max, and a high lactate threshold, which means your body converts oxygen into energy more easily.
So, Breaking2's lead physiologist, Brett Kirby, Ph.D., focused on the two elements of Kipchoge's game that he obviously had control over: diet and equipment.
"Eliud had the opportunity to improve his energy management during the marathon," says Kirby, researcher at Nike Sport.Fitness for men. "Two strategies we used to make this possible were 1) customizing Eliud's Vaporfly Elite shoes, which allowed him to maintain race pace with a lower oxygen cost, and 2) customizing the amount of carbs in his drink," Eliud said during of training and racing that he was able to maintain the stored muscle energy over longer periods of time.
Innovative? Not quite. Nike didn't set out to drastically change Kipchoge's (or any other runner's) diet, training schedule, or form of training, mostly because they didn't have to.
What Kipchoge eats to increase monster mileage
„Eliud eats a Kenyan staple with Kenyan vegetables, ugali and lots of Kenyan tea,” says Kirby. Ugali is a polenta-like dish made from cornmeal, sorghum, or millet. “In the days leading up to the race, including the morning of the race, Eliud consumed carbohydrate- and nitrate-rich foods, and during the race he consumed a mixed drink consisting of both.carbohydrates and electrolytes.“
Kipchoge refined his game day diet to include foods that rev up your engineAvoid stomach upset. keepwell hydratedit was the bigger goal. In fact, all runners had different drinking beverages and frequencies tailored to their bodies: some bottles contained higher amounts of sugar (or another type of sugar), according to one study, and some had caffeine added.Nike press release.
Kipchoge's regime was varied and gradually became more grueling leading up to race day.
"Eliud did a month of aerobics at the gym preseason," says Kirby. "Then his weekly training included a track workout, a long hard run, and a fartlek workout with light and progressive runs in between."
Kipchoge had to increase his speed to reach the target pace of 2:50 min/km. Group runs and pacemakers were essential for this. Kirby describes in aNike press release.
It also helped that the Kipchoge camp in Kenya is higher up and therefore has less oxygen available. This is optimal for runners because red blood cells multiply over time, allowing your body to deliver oxygen to working muscles more efficiently. Ultimately, you can run further and faster. It's like natural blood doping.
Courtesy of Nike
Kipchoge's secret weapon isn't muscle
In a sport where burnout plagues many, Kipchoge has seen remarkable consistency and longevity. Yes, he eats well and works out well, and he tries hardsleepy restand full body massages. But it's his mental toughness and confidence that gives him an advantage.
“Eliud believes that success in sport comes from a strong heart as much as it does a strong mind,” says Kirby. "He has both."
Kipchoge's perspective on life centers you and also keeps you focused. When he's not training, Kipchoge tends to his training ground: working in the field, drawing water, resting with his teammates. It is based on your beliefs and your abilities.
"Marathon is life," says Kipchoge in the documentary.break2. "It's not about the legs, it's about the heart and mind."
The trust he has in his coaches, scientists and friends is unshakable.
"There's a formula," says Kipchoge inbreak2, "100% of me is nothing compared to 1% of the whole team".
What Nike scientists learned from Breaking2
In Monza, Italy, a Tesla car illuminated a green laser step line as well as a clock to show the current race time and pace. A group of 30 pacers raced during Breaking2 to keep Kipchoge, Desisa and Tadese on track and reduce drag. Six took to the track immediately, running in a triangle formation and retiring after two laps to allow the next group to get in. It was like a choreographed dance at 13 mph.
"The formulation and pacing strategy worked very well," says Kirby. "If I could tweak something, I might consider adding the entire Pacer group to the race for the final lap."
And while some pundits have developed their own pacing theories to beat the two-hour mark, some suggest slowing down for the first half, while others believe an all-or-nothing pace is necessary Kirby remains strategy. .
"Even rhythm is my usual preference," he says. “Starting too slow and making up for lost time towards the end of a race can be extremely difficult because an hour later the body isn't getting more capable, it's getting worse. That being said, starting too quickly makes power usage unsustainable. It is only important that the energy intake of the athlete corresponds to the energy requirement of the task and is used on average.”
So if the calculations indicate that Kipchoge is physically capable of achieving 1:59:59, what external elements might have been modified to achieve this?
First, the shoe.
"Zoom Vaporfly Elite was truly revolutionary and its impact changed marathon running forever," says Kirby. "At Nike, we're always evolving and striving to improve, and with that comes change...new technologies and innovations will certainly be introduced."
Will Kipchoge give the two-hour submarathon another chance?
"I feel like I have the potential in my heart to push human limits by running under two hours," says Kipchogebreak2.
This was before Monza, Italy.
"He commented after the race that while he missed the 1:59:59 target, he thinks it will give another athlete hope that a two-hour marathon is possible," says Kirby. "He worked extremely hard to lose more than 2.5 minutes of his personal best and someone will be able to match that 25 second reduction in the future."
Apparently that someone won't be Kipchoge. And while it's disappointing, it's okay.
Though controversial, this race sparked an urge to push human boundaries: to raise the bar and sayWhy don't you try it?
"Barriers are only barriers until they are broken, and often we can only see what we see or know what we know based on life experience," says Kirby. "New ways of life emerge when we look beyond current paradigms, imagine other possibilities, and then work to make those things happen."
Although it begs the question: if Eliud Kipchoge, one of the greatest marathoners in history, couldn't do it, who could?
von National Geographicbreak2Documentationopens on 20.9. Above is an exclusive look at Eliud Kipchoge's epic journeyFitness for men.
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