Listen Watch Read: What went into Eliud Kipchoge breaking the unofficial two-hour barrier in the marathon


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From a farm in rural Kenya to Vienna: How Kipchoge broke the two-hour barrier

INEOS 1:59 Challenge, five-part documentary; You Tube
One hour and 13 minutes

Does an athlete as great as marathoner Eliud Kipchoge have doubts about his own abilities? The answer is ‘yes’.

Kenyan running great Kipchoge broke the marathon world record on Sunday, September 26, by 30 seconds, incidentally breaking his own mark, at the Berlin marathon. Kipchoge clocked 2 hours and 1:09 on a fast Berlin track where 12 marathon world records have fallen, including three by women. Kipchoge has won 15 of his 17 marathons to become arguably the greatest. One of his greatest feats, which came with a rider because it was not an official marathon but a one-off special race which was aimed at breaking the two-hour barrier, was at Vienna in 2019.

Kipchoge was successful and clocked 1:59.40. Though he had the benefit of a specialised course, teams of pacers, laser beam lights to guide him to run within the desired time and specialised running shoes, the sheer difficulty of the challenge made Vienna 2019 special.

Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge crosses the line to win the Berlin Marathon in Berlin. (AP Photo/Christoph Soeder)

“What will happen if I fail to do it, not even fail to do it but what will happen if I don’t finish the race. What will happen if I actually retire after 20 kilometres? What will the world say,” Kipchoge says in Part-5 of the documentary titled INEOS 1:59 challenge. The fifth part is filmed post Kipchoge breaking the barrier but the preparation and the build up can be viewed in the previous episodes.

All the pressure evaporated when he started running, Kipchoge says. Having a team of pacers change every five kilometres helped his mind stay fresh and by the 38th kilometre, Kipchoge was confident of posting a sub-two-hour time.

A portrait of Eliud Kipchoge is depicted on the participant medals of the Berlin Marathon which are stored in the finish area. (AP Photo/Christoph Soeder)

The Part One of the documentary takes one to Kipchoge’s farm back home, a place where he relaxes when finds time. “The first animal is the cow, and after the cow you can buy sheep and goat,” Kipchoge says about how the number of animals a person owns is the metric by which one is judged as a hard worker. Two of the cows Kipchoge owns were given as a reward for winning in London and Berlin.

Kipchoge’s wife Grace manages the farm and the three children, because he is away in a camp in Kaptagat during the week and comes home for the weekend. The youngest of three children, Grace feels, is going to take up running. Kipchoge talks about how he missed out the first time in Monza (by 26 seconds) and why he was confident of breaking the two-hour barrier later in Vienna in October 2019.

For those critics who believe Kipchoge received too much assistance when he ran under-two hours, watching this documentary could help them appreciate the effort a little more.

How a humble maize dish keeps the Kalinjen tribe runners moving
Title: How one Kenya village fuels the world’s fastest distance runners
Olympics channel; YouTube
19 minutes and 55 seconds

Iten in the Rift Valley province of Kenya is a place popularly known as the home of the champions. Runners from all over the world come to train in Iten before a big competition. What is well known is that the altitude – 2,400 metres – the tropical weather and mud roads which help develop lower legs make Iten an ideal training base for distance runners. But what do the Kalinjen eat?

The ubiquitous maize dish Ugali is the staple of the distance runners of the Kalinjen tribe in Iten. Hugo Van Den Broek, the coach of African Games silver medalist in the 10,000 metres, says the diet in the region is mainly beans, rice and ugali and once in a way meat because ‘they don’t have enough money’.

Ugali is the Kenyan running superfood.

The short film focussed on the running culture in Iten and also what Kalinjen runners eat.

The maize or corn, the main ingredient in ugali, is sowed in April and it is ready by September-October. The best seeds are picked, ground and made into a powder. This powder is added to boiling water and the mixture is heated and stirred. Ugali is a cost-effective diet because it is cheap to make, and a relatively small portion is sufficient to provide calories for runners and is rich in vitamins.

Ugali in its final form is like a cake and is hard but can be mixed with soup or broth. Managu, or beef stew with ugali, is another popular dish. Milk is fermented and fixed with the ashes of the branches of the calabash tree to give it a smoky flavour.

The diet is all natural and easily available and foreign runners may need to develop an acquired taste to appreciate it.

In the film, among the athletes interviewed are 1,500 and 5000 metre world champion Bernard Lagat’s sister. How the running culture makes athletes push each other to improve and the reasons for the community of runners being close-knit are the key take-aways from the film.

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