Eliud Kipchoge runs first ever sub-two hour marathon in INEOS 1:59 challenge

ESPN News Services4 Minute Read
Eliud Kipchoge celebrates after breaking the two-hour marathon barrier.ALEX HALADA/AFP via Getty Images

VIENNA -- Eliud Kipchoge has become the first athlete to run a marathon in less than two hours, although it will not count as a world record.

The Olympic champion and world record holder from Kenya clocked 1 hour, 59 minutes, 40.2 seconds Saturday at the INEOS 1:59 Challenge, an event set up for the attempt.

After accomplishing the feat, Kipchoge, who was named as the second most dominant athlete in sports in ESPN's Dominant 20 index in 2018, said he was "feeling good."

"After Roger Bannister [ran the first four-minute mile] in 1954, it took another 63 years. I tried and I did not get it -- 65 years, I am the first man -- I want to inspire many people that no human is limited," he said.

"That was the best moment of my life. The pressure was very big on my shoulders. I got a phone call from the president of Kenya. I am the happiest man today."

Kipchoge, who said he trained four and a half months for this race, was supported by 36 pacemakers who accompanied him in alternating groups, one of the reasons the IAAF will not ratify the time as a world record.

The groups were helped by a pace car with a laser beam, projecting the ideal position on the road.

Running at a consistent average pace of 2:50 minutes per kilometer (4:33.5 minutes per mile), Kipchoge was 11 seconds ahead of schedule halfway through his run.

The pacemakers left him for the final 500 meters, and Kipchoge punched his chest twice in celebration when he finished.

"We can make this world a beautiful world and a peaceful world," Kipchoge said, pointing out that the mission of his attempt went beyond athletics. "The positivity of sport, I want to make it a clean sport and an interesting sport."

Jim Ratcliffe, founder of the chemicals company backing the attempt, exchanged high-fives with Kipchoge.

"He even accelerated in the final kilometer. He is a super human," Ratcliffe said. "I can't believe he's done it. He did the first half in less than an hour and then he's done that just again."

The Prater Park in the Austrian capital offered long straights, protected from the wind by high trees, for most of the 9.6-kilometer course, which Kipchoge completed more than four times.

It was his second attempt at breaking the two-hour barrier, after missing out by 26 seconds at a similar event on the Formula One track in Monza, Italy, in May 2017.

Kipchoge, who took Olympic gold in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 and has won 10 of his 11 marathons, holds the official world record of 2:01:39 since shattering the previous best mark by 78 seconds in Berlin last year.

In near-perfect circumstances at the meticulously planned attempt, Kipchoge shaved almost two minutes off that time.

Organizers said normal anti-doping regulations were in place and that Kipchoge and all the pacemakers were being tested in and out of competition by the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU).

Kipchoge was cheered by spectators along the course in Prater Park, and there were celebrations in his home country before he had even finished.

"Hearty congratulations, Eliud Kipchoge," President Uhuru Kenyatta said in a statement. "You've done it, you've made history and made Kenya proud. Your win today will inspire future generations to dream big and aspire to greatness. We celebrate you and wish you God's blessings."

Hundreds of joyous Kenyans brought traffic to a standstill in the middle of the capital, Nairobi, as they gathered to watch the end of the run on a large screen. People pumped their fists, clapped and fell to their knees as Kipchoge cruised to the finish line.

In Kenya's running mecca of Eldoret, called the home of champions, hundreds of people burst onto the streets in celebration.

"We should line up the entire road from the airport to Nairobi. Receive him like the hero he is," prominent activist Boniface Mwangi said on Twitter.

Longtime coach and mentor Patrick Sang, a former Olympic and world steeplechase silver medalist, said it was "really exciting."

"I am happy for him and what he has achieved. He has inspired all of us that we can stretch our limits and that we can do more than we think we can do," Sang added.

Under Sang's guidance, Kipchoge won gold in the 5,000 meters at the world championship in 2003, the start of a distinguished track career.

After missing out on qualification for the London Olympics on the track, Eliud switched to the marathon.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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