8 September 2017

Kenya: After Near Miss in Monza, Kipchoge Now Targets Marathon World Record

Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge believes he has rested and trained well enough after his attempt to run the marathon in under two hours in May, and is ready to take aim at the legal world record over the 42-kilometre distance later this month at the Berlin Marathon.

Under special conditions that were, however, not compliant for an official world record at the Monza Formula One race track in May, Kipchoge, 32, gobbled up the fine tarmac to stop the clock at two hours, 25 seconds, falling just short of what would have been the first sub-two hour marathon.

His attempt - Nike's ambitious "Breaking2" project - came after seven months of highly scientific preparations.

Kipchoge, one of Kenya's most consistent athletes, had almost defied science but still curved out his niche as one of the best distance runners of all time.

His shoe sponsors, Nike, were distraught by the close shave in their "Breaking2" project, but Kipchoge, like a world-class high jumper, raised the bar to set it on a fresh target of breaking the legal marathon world record of 2:02:57 set in 2014 by Dennis Kimetto, also in Berlin.

Kipchoge will line up on September 24 for the BMW Berlin Marathon where compatriot Wilson Kipsang and Ethiopian long distance running legend Kenenisa Bekele will also be chasing the world record.

This is the most competitive elite field ever assembled for the marathon, and Berlin race director Mark Milde will be gleefully waiting for a fantastic race.

"You can read the signs," Kipchoge said, pointing at his specially tailored Nike shirt emblazoned with the words "Berlin, WR" during this interview at his Kaptagat base.

"It says I'm going for the world record."

As if to confirm he has since moved on from "Breaking2" to targeting Kimetto's world record.

"All the best. It's not easy," Kimetto fought back on Facebook, perhaps jittery that Kipchoge, Kipsang and Bekele, Milde's stellar cast in Berlin on September 24, could obliterate his iconic mark.

Like Kipchoge, Bekele and Kipsang have already announced they will be targeting the world record in Berlin.

Kipchoge, world 5,000 metres champion on the track in 2003 (Paris), says he is confident he can shatter Kimetto's record, pointing out that self-discipline has been behind his longevity and success in distance running.

"It's important to treat this sport as a profession, and secondly, self-discipline is important," Kipchoge said.

"I love the sport and I feel I haven't reached where I'm supposed to be."

With all his successes, it's amazing that Kipchoge always raises the bar for himself.

Kipchoge is happy with his training so far, and this his focus on Monza was the reason why he dropped out of Kenya's team to the World Championships in London last month.

"The preparations are OK and I'm about to complete my training.

"Monza was late and I had no time to focus on the World Championships that's why I called off the World Championships to concentrate on Berlin."

He has won the Berlin Marathon before, in 2015, clocking a then personal best 2:04:00 despite running most of the race with a shoe malfunction that saw the insoles of his Nike Streak 6 shoe pop out.

This time round, Nike are not taking any chances with Kipchoge expected to wear the latest Nike shoe which he wore in the Monza "Breaking2" mission.

"Eliud will run in the Nike Zoom Vaporfly Elite, the style he wore during the 'Breaking2' attempt," Illana Finley, Nike's senior global communications director in charge of Olympics and running told Nation Sport via email from Nike's Beaverton headquarters on Thursday.

"Technology has really grown, beyond the thinking of some minds and I'm happy with the technology of Nike. For now, the shoe from Nike has no problem," Kipchoge added after a morning fartlek training session on the University of Eldoret's Chepkoilel track on Tuesday.

He was in the company of several top athletes, among them world half marathon and cross country champion Geoffrey Kamworor, Chicago Marathon champion Abel Kirui, Paris Marathon winner Paul Lonyangata and marathon debutants Viola Kibiwott and Betsy Saina.

Several world records have fallen at the Berlin Marathon, with Kipchoge describing the conditions there as conducive for fast times.

"First, the weather there is good for running fast, and, secondly, the course is purely flat," he says.

Since he started his professional career, Kipchoge has focused his training in Kaptagat which he describes as "the best training location in the world."

"Kaptagat is a special place. You cannot compare it to anywhere in the world... It's the only place you can go at midday in the forest and train without being affected by the sun.

"There is nowhere in Kenya you can go running for two hours inside a forest."

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