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Two marathon world records broken over the weekend but only one will stand as official

October 14, 2019

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On Saturday morning in Vienna, Eliud Kipchoge ran a marathon in 1hour 59minutes and 40 seconds which is the first ever time that a marathon has been run in less than two hours. The following day saw the Chicago marathon take place with fellow Kenyan Lawrence Cherono winning the men’s race with a time of 2hours 5minutes and 45 seconds but the headlines were stolen by a third Kenyan, Brigid Kosgei who won the women’s race by setting a new world record of 2hours 14minutes and 4 seconds, which beat Paula Radcliffe’s previous world record by over a minute.  

However only Kosgei’s record will stand as official due to the fact that her time was set on an official course, with official drinks stations during a marathon race. Kipchoge on the other hand raced no competitors, ran in Vienna on a specifically selected course which ran as flat as possible, he was handed drinks and nutrition by teams on bikes rather than having to collect his drinks from designated drinks stations at set points along the run and he also had the assistance of 42 pacemakers. The pacemakers included several Olympic and World Champion long distance runners such as 1500m Olympic Champion Matthew Centrowitz and multi World Champion Bernard Lagat, who rotated duties throughout the race and were tasked with keeping Kipchoge on the strict pace of 2minutes 50seconds per kilometre. There was also a lead pace car which emitted a green laser onto the road to signify the pace required to run the marathon in under two hours.

The event was named the Ineos 1:59 challenge and was funded by Sir Jim Ratcliffe who owns the company, which also has a cycling team of the same name. Kipchoge has had a previous attempt at the feat in 2017 at the Nike break 2 project Monza, Italy but missed out on the achievement by a mere 26 seconds. Ineos and all involved were aware that the achievement would not be officially recognised by IAAF records, but Kipchoge said that he wanted to do it nevertheless to show that we shouldn’t accept limits because we can all reach further and to show the positivity of what can be achieved through clean sport. Other factors which were used to assist the run included the start time being specifically assigned when the weather conditions were most favourable, a specially designed Nike shoe and the location of the course being specifically selected for the climate and air quality throughout the flat terrain.

With only a few hundred metres left Kipchoge began to sprint to the finish line, cheered on by his team of pacemakers and a large crowd that lined the Vienna park to see him create history and beat the 2hour mark by an impressive 20 seconds, which Kipchoge says he expects many more to repeat after him.  

Kipchoge’s achievement is not officially recognised by the IAAF as a new world record because it was not set in an official race and was assisted by several factors such as the pacemakers and other features which are not prohibited by the IAAF in official marathons. This has led many to view Brigid Kosgei’s new official women’s marathon world record as a more impressive feat as she did not have the aids provided to Kipchoge and she was also competing in an official race against others with no purpose of solely going for the world record as her first priority was to win the race. She beat the previous world record by over a minute and was over six minutes ahead of her closest competitors all whilst running a race under official IAAF guidelines such as set drinks stations on a record eligible course.

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