He Broke the 2-Hour Marathon 'Barrier.' How? There's No Secret

Eliud Kipchoge did what many believed couldn't be done
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 5, 2020 12:20 PM CDT
He Broke the 2-Hour Marathon 'Barrier.' How? It's No Mystery
In this Oct. 12, 2019, file photo, marathon runner Eliud Kipchoge, from Kenya, celebrates after crossing the finish line of the INEOS 1:59 Challenge after 1:59:40 in Vienna, Austria.   (AP Photo/Ronald Zak, File)

For decades, it was believed to be impossible to run a marathon in less than two hours. Then, in October, Eliud Kipchoge became the first person to do it. How? Knox Robinson spent time with Kipchoge at his rural training camp in Kenya, and in an extensive piece for GQ, Robinson explains: "His secret is that there are no secrets. You just put in the work, season after season." Kipchoge runs six days a week at the camp where he also lives, spending brief weekend visits with his wife and three young kids and working their farm. He simply puts in the miles, and it works—and after his visit to the camp, Robinson did the same, running 100 miles a week and adopting the "communal ethos" of the Kenyan camp. Robinson's Brooklyn running team started training and eating together, and ended up sending more than 20 runners to the Berlin Marathon. Half ran personal bests.

"The idea that you can do more by working in harmony might be obvious to any middle school basketball player, but in a world where the default mindset is The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner, it was a foreign concept," Robinson writes. "With that shift in our mentality, we started to see results." Of course, Kipchoge's story isn't 100% feel-good; Robinson notes there are "detractors" who decry his use of a 41-person pace team or a Nike prototype shoe not yet available to the public. "That became the irony of sub-2:00: that the most modest of champions, a man who sleeps in a twin bed, drives an Isuzu pickup, and milks his own cows, became the focus of a debate about how relentless innovation complicates the ethics of the world's simplest sport," Robinson writes. "But amid all the talk about pacers and Alphaflys, it was easy to forget what it was that got Kipchoge into the ballpark of two hours in the first place: spending six days a week for nearly two decades in his camp's monastic seclusion." The full piece is worth a read. (More Longform stories.)

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