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Eliud Kipchoge training outside his compound. | Ronald Muya

Running was life for Kenya’s world record marathoner

In October 2019, the world stopped to witness history, when I was competing with time to cover 42 kilometers in less than two hours.

Eliud Kipchoge
First-person source
Eliud Kipchoge born Nov. 5 1984 is a Kenyan long-distance runner who competes in the marathon and formerly competed at the 5000 metre distance.
Background
Kipchoge is the world record holder in the marathon with a time of 2:01:39, set on 16 September 2018, at the 2018 Berlin Marathon.

He has been described as “the greatest marathoner of the modern era”.

On 12 October 2019, Kipchoge ran the marathon distance at a special event in Vienna, Austria, achieving a time of 1:59:40.

The run did not count as a new marathon record, as standard competition rules for pacing and fluids were not followed and it was not an open event.

NANDI COUNTY, Kenya — In my community, running is the only way for most people to get to their destination faster.

For me, school was about five to seven kilometers (three to four miles) away with no bus available, so I had to run to be on time.

Unknown to me, running would bring great fortune and put my home village of Kaptagat on the international map.

Today, everyone in my country, including the lofty, knows my name. Yet, this has never changed who I am.

Winning that international title and becoming the world marathon record holder comes with pride, but I continue my everyday life, with no fanfare.  I am still that guy in the village, caring for my family and tending to my farm.

In fact, I believe staying in my village is the reason behind our prowess as athletes from this area.

The altitude is 8,000 feet above sea level; perfect weather for training. So this accomplishment, and the honor that comes with it, is not just about me, but also my community and my country.

Further, all I have achieved would not be possible without my coach Patrick Sang, a decorated athlete who, in 2002, started training me for professional competition.

I learned a lot that year. I competed with people I did not know and whom I had never seen. I learned that running was about time and not just running as a lone ranger.

It is about keeping track of who is the fastest in a particular race and how much time they took to match my speed with theirs, so that I can beat them.

The big break

Over the years, I have won and lost many times.

It is fair to say I have won more times than I have lost, but I never count the lost races. Instead, I congratulate the winner and motivate my spirit.

In October 2019, the world witnessed history. I ran a marathon, covering 42 kilometers (26 miles) in less than two hours.

No one had ever run that fast before. It was an exciting and defining moment for me and the entire fraternity of marathon runners.

My conviction is that no human is limited. At one hour, 59 minutes, and 40 seconds, I crossed the finish line in Vienna, Austria.

I made history.

Massive crowds lined the road and my wife was at the finish line to receive me with a hug. Tears of joy flowed freely from among the thousands of spectators.

I shook hundreds of hands and receiving congratulatory hugs as the entire street burst into jubilation.

I heard hundreds of camera clicks from every angle. Everyone wanted a glimpse of this historical moment.

All eyes on me

In my many races, I was used to seeing people celebrating their teams or countries. They applauded first, second, and third place; but now, I was the only winner and all eyes were on me.

The commentators gave an overview of my sporting career and my country and village received numerous mentions throughout the race.

While the race was me, running against time, people from all walks of life were there, cheering me on.

They did not care about my race or my birthplace. I saw the face of humanity and the beauty of sports as a unifying factor.

Even my people were there. Kenya’s deputy president William Ruto led a government delegation to Vienna to witness this moment. They were my cheering squad.

Immediately after I crossed the finish line, he handed me our national flag.

I remain grateful to my pacesetters, who ran with me through the entire course. They motivated me and kept me moving toward my target.

Later that day, the internet was abuzz with my slogan, “no human is limited.”

Knowing how many people I give hope to has always been my inspiration.

Training schedule 

Athletics, just like any other sport, is about discipline and punctuality.

Because the track is our office, we as athletes respect it just like an accountant at a bank or a teacher in a school.

Training runs from Monday through Saturday, following the coaches’ strict schedule at the camp.

It starts with breakfast, then a run, followed by a massage for the muscles in the evening.

Giving back to society 

I see this blessing of being a champion as a way to reach out to society and help those in need.

In May 2020, I partnered with a local company to donate food to athletes affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

I intend to do more good work through the Eliud Kipchoge Foundation

Ronald Muya is a freelance professional journalist working in Kenya covering mostly topical issues and human interest stories affecting the society in his home country and East Africa.