I recently re-read something I wrote at the time Kipchoge broke 2 hours for the marathon. It still made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up so wanted to share here:
So what would it take to run a marathon in under 2 hours? Pacemakers, shoes, mindset, training, investment and one incredible athlete. Leading up to the event I had become more obsessed, curious, convinced that Eliud Kipchoge would be the man to break this barrier. I’d engaged my class with the effort. I’d mulled the while thing over and over in my mind> Every time I’d watched the Monza Breaking2 event it had raised hairs on the back of my neck and choked me up. As the week came round I couldn’t live with the idea of watching on tele as opposed to flying to Vienna and watching he event. So flights booked, hotel booked, I went to watch. Below are my thoughts of the day.
Got into Vienna at 12:40am, flight delayed. Overtired and straight to bed. Alarm for 6:15am, colds shower and off to breakfast.
Walking to the marathon course the city was quiet and misty, cool (quiet you would expect at 7:15am on a Saturday morning). Getting to the park excitement was building, few people. One young American guy commented to his girlfriend, “You can feel tin the air, it’s palpable.,” which made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I walked to the finish area and decided to move further back to get some pictures over the first couple of loops. Headed back to around 400m from the line and begun watching on YouTUbe. The sense of anticipation was gnawing as the car lights appeared in the distance, then 1, 2, 3, 4 they were gone and Kipchoge slid past amongst his pacers. I sensed there would be a better view across the other side of the track, so I made my way over. As I was waiting by my new position I noticed to guys shaping to sprint, clearly waiting to reach / run what Kipchoge. It was infectious and I had to do this. As the cars got closer, the adrenaline begun to pump, bike horns beeped and then we were off, He was so deceptively quick, like a swan just gliding and before you knew it he was past and gone. So quiet in terms fo him and his pace train. As I ran I was overwhelmed at being sort of this and I choked back tears – read emotion pairing out of every cell and I stopped. The noise and strain my run in stark comparison to the calm of Kipchoge. I’d done 50m, him over 10k and still so much more to do.
I repeated the run 3/4 more times. Each time struck by how smooth and fast he went- yet always seeing slow-motion like. Half way was his only weak point, imperceptibly dropping back a few cm behind his immediate pier. This didn’t last long and he was back in his rhythm solidly banging out 2:50 min/km. As the event drew to a close a quiet nervous, anxious unbelieving hush came over us all – whenever he was some distance from us.
10k / 5k, then the last 2.2km from the roundabout. He subtly shifted his position, moving to Lagat’s right hand shoulder, rather than directly behind. Closer he came, louder we got, my voice hoarse. First the cars peeled away. 500m out. Next the pacers; now he sprang, opened up, exuding elation and joy. The energy was unforgettable as this superhuman athlete floated past, pointing left and right, smiling and finishing. The unadulterated joy that covered him was boundless. I felt slightly out of control, head spinning from one screen to another to look at the time, believing but not quite believing; anxious nervous energy coursing through my body as the enormity of what Kipchoge had and was achieving was witnessed. He seemed elevated to somewhere new, he became one with his pacemakers, coach, wife, running back and forth, shouting, smiling, radiating utter joy and belief. A woman who high fives him kept repeating, “He touched me!” It was so surreal m, yet wonderfully real. The best parts of people spilling out into one place. The sense of amazement hovered, the time was clear, 1:59:40:2. and this remained the time.
I moved away, drawn past the finish line. I found myself opposite the entrance to where the 41 pacemakers where based. Time passed, interviews happened by the finish, then the pacers begun to make their way towards where I stood. Critical to the success of this they accepted the congratulations and duration of small groups of people – desperate to share their thoughts and ask for pictures. Ever gracious with their time, regardless of what they had just done. They laughed, talked, posed, joked and included us all. Paul Chelimo was a legend, giving his vest to a woman who asked for it, speaking to her in a New York Kenyan brogue. Then Kipchoge appeared, wrapped in a Kenyan flag, smile still wrapped across his face, glowing with a sheen of sweat, hard earned and mystical. He moved past and again was gone.
All that was left for me was to run a lap, a single lap to experienced the surface, follow the lines, look at what he had seen and try to let anger of his magic brush off onto me. Use the experience to really absorb what I had just been part of. UP and then down people taking souvenirs of boards or the banners that had lined the route. ‘No human is limited’ a wonderful motto to live by. Then I was on the last stretch, running to the finish, 500m, 400m, and on. Head up, what must this have bene like for Eliud Kipchoge? I haven’t got the words, but I do have the memories and the connection with him, the crowd and myself. That moment, that life affirming unique moment, when he shifted, pointed, smiled needs no words; no words can ever truly express how unifying and exhilarating that moment was. In fact there is no need for words.
Watch stopped, run done, thoughts noted. The course is being cleared, life will g on for Vienna. For Kipchoge the door has opened to a sub 2 hour road marathon.