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‘I compete against time’: Marathon legend Eliud Kipchoge’s mantra

There’s a saying champions think differently, especially in sport where the conviction of a winner sets him apart. Kenyan marathon great Eliud Kipchoge exemplifies that

other sports Updated: Feb 21, 2019 23:38 IST
Sandip Sikdar
Sandip Sikdar
New Delhi
Eliud Kipchoge,marathon,Laureus World Sports Awards
Eliud Kipchoge poses after winning the Exceptional Achievement Award at the Laureus World Sports Awards. (REUTERS)

There’s a saying champions think differently, especially in sport where the conviction of a winner sets him apart. Kenyan marathon great Eliud Kipchoge exemplifies that.

“I don’t compete with anybody. I compete with distance and time” is the philosophy of the man whose incredible run in 2018 will remain an inspiration and standard for marathoners for long.

Not only did he win two marathon majors (London and Berlin) last year, he broke the world record (2 hours, 1min, 39 secs) – a 78 seconds faster than compatriot Dennis Kipruto Kimetto’s mark set in 2014, also in the Berlin marathon. It was the biggest improvement since 1967.

Kipchoge’s run on September 16 earned him many accolades, including the Exceptional Achievement Award at the Laureus World Sports Awards in Monaco on Monday.

After receiving the award, the humble Kipchoge spoke not about his achievements but how it could make the world a better place. “Sport changes the world. A sporting world is a peaceful world, a healthy world, a wealthy world, an enjoyable world,” he said.

It is this philosophy that sets apart champions like him.

Kipchoge set such a searing pace that he finished almost five minutes ahead of second-placed compatriot Amos Kipruto. His run has also revived the debate among athletics experts who will be the first to break the two-hour barrier and whether Kipchoge will fulfil those expectations.

Did Kipchoge, 34, believe he would break the world record?

“From the start I was really trying for the world record, but you cannot say until you cross the finish line. But at the 32km, 35km, 40km (marks), I was really sure of the world record but did not know I would run that fast. (I thought) maybe two or five seconds, but I was lucky.”

Next target

The 2016 Rio Olympics champion is now focused on the London Marathon (April 28). However, the defending champion acknowledges his aim to win a fourth time in five years will come under challenge.

Briton Mo Farah, who completed the 5,000-10,000 double-double at the Rio Games and then moved out of track, was third in the 2018 London marathon but won the Chicago crown – his first marathon win since the shift.

“My plan for now is to run London, really try my best to win for the fourth time,” the 2018 IAAF World Athlete of the Year said.

“Mo can beat me. But I keep total respect for Mo. I’ve been so impressed with his development in the marathon. Last year, he surprised people in London and had a very good run in Chicago. He’s my No1 rival. He will enjoy the race more because it is his home, his crowd, and there are a million people cheering his name,” Kipchoge had told London’s Evening Standard last month.

A great champion himself Farah is following in the footsteps of Kipchoge. The Kenyan was a middle distance specialist before making it big in marathon. The seven-time marathon major winner pipped favourites Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco (silver) and Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele (bronze) for the 5,000m gold at the 2003 World Championships in Paris.

“Memories! That was a great era in 2003 when I won 5,000m in Paris. There was a huge pool of talent,” said Kipchoge.

“But I never had any pressure. I had very big confidence. I got the world junior record in Oslo and coming to the World Championships in Paris, I was having a really fast time,” said the Kenyan, who also won the 5,000m silver at the 2007 Osaka World Championships and 2008 Beijing Olympics and bronze at the 2004 Athens Olympics before taking the marathon plunge.

First Published: Feb 21, 2019 23:30 IST