Roy Exum: The 1:59.40 Marathon!

Sunday, October 13, 2019 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

First, we must tell the children, every little boy and girl must come. Anyone who has already started our next generation yet are less than only a few steps in their life’s race, must come. They must see. Yes, we who have nearly finished our distance or the promising millennials who are still in their climb, you too! We must call them and point to the picture of a 34-year-old they will at first think needs vitamins. On a cool Saturday morning in Vienna yesterday, the great Kenyan runner Eliud Kipchoge ran a prescribed and carefully-measured marathon course of 42.195 kilometers (26.2 miles) flawlessly and, with his trademark humility, assumed sole ownership of the mythical Mount Olympus.

He ran the first sub-two-hour marathon in the history of the world and, in doing so, defied all of mankind’s knowledge – scientific, physical and all other laws – in one hour, 59 minutes, and 40 seconds.

Every child must know – if Eluid Kipchoge can do what everybody said was impossible, so can you!

No, Saturday’s titanic triumph will not be recognized as a world record, the tightly-controlled effort was sans of competition and intricately planned as well as executed, but, yes, as every child the world over can attest with their own eyes and tuck away in their hearts: Forget the fine print, the goofs in the walrus moustaches who grouse about over English commas, willfully argue all else, and haven’t been able to see their navels because of their paunch since Frank Sinatra’s last hit. I’m telling you, Eliud Kipchoge just shattered the two-hour wall, and to quote the bard Dizzy Dean, “It ain’t bragging if you do it!”

The 34-year-old, obviously recognized as the greatest marathoner the world has ever known, pronounces his name “EL-ee-OOD kip-CHOH-g?,” and holds the official world’s record, 2:01:39 on September 16, 2018, at the 2018 Berlin Marathon. His run broke the previous world record by 1 minute and 18 seconds. As if it matters, it was the greatest improvement in a marathon world record time since 1967.

Since then, anyone who has fallen under Uliud’s spell has known – pardon this – it was just a matter of time. "It is a great feeling to make history in sport after Sir Roger Bannister," Kipchoge said yesterday. "I am the happiest man in the world to be the first human to run under two hours and I can tell people that no human is limited. I expect more people all over the world to run under two hours after today."

And Eliud’s message to each and every one of us mortals at the finish line? “Passion is a choice. You need to choose to be great. It's not a chance, it's a choice. … no human is limited.”

Another reason the result cannot be official is because Eliud used a group of 41 pacemakers, comprised of the most elite distance runners in the world, who alternated positions to assist Kipchoge, as a television special will show today (NBCSN will air an exclusive replay of the Ineos 1:59 Challenge today from 3-5:30 p.m. ET and Monday at 2:30 p.m. YouTube also has extensive footage.) The pacers alternated in groups of seven, running in a "V" formation around Kipchoge, not only setting his pace, but easing any wind resistance on him and allowing the Kenyan to run in their slipstream. In 1971 a study found that like the ‘V’ of migrating geese, to run at a pace of one mile every four-and-a-half minutes, drafting one meter behind another runner on a still day, saves about 80 percent of the energy you'd otherwise spend fighting air resistance. Believe it or not, that corresponds to about one second per 400 meters at that pace, and more on windy days.

It is said that 65 years ago, when running’s most heralded knight ever, later becoming Sir Roger Bannister, broke the four-minute barrier for the mile, he told his mum he wasn’t feeling well and not to bother watching him run that day. But he went about his work at a hospital as a young intern that morning and later, with world experts assured such a strain would actually crush Roger’s lungs, a huge crowd was on hand at the now-famed Iffley Road track at Oxford. When the announcer, Norris McWhirter, declared "The time was three...", the roar of cheers and screams was so deafening only later was the rest of the world record … “59.4” … learned.

The breaking of the four-minute mile has stood as the ‘holy grail’ of all track and field since 1954 yet down through the years the one thing that Bannister, an acclaimed neurologist, adored was the fact that his four-minute achievement lasted only 46 days until another runner had a sub-four, then another, and then another. True to form, the Kenyan Kipchoge acknowledged it had taken 65 years for a human being to make history in running but it has now been shown to be achievable.

What all who have ever run a 5-kilometer fun run or a marathon in the Chickamauga part of the United States must appreciate, Kipchoge’s run in Vienna yesterday, where the roads are straight and level, and stately trees shield the wind on the historic streets, averaged two minutes, 50 seconds per kilometer, which Chattanooga’s resident marathoner John Hunt explained calculates to an average of 4:33 a mile. Kipchoge was 11 seconds ahead of schedule halfway through his run, a feat that Hunt, a veteran distance runner, said was “pretty noble but I’ve done that too,” he added, later admitting he meant he has been “halfway through several marathons by maybe a few seconds faster than I thought was on my schedule … but it was ‘the second parts’ that, uh, what slowed me down.” Asked if he’s ever claimed a 4:33 mile, the one other Chattanooga Track Club runners adore as ‘Moose,’ said, “Yeah I have … one day when I was driving to school. It was raining and I almost ran over a cat.”

* * *


“The world is actually full of challenges and we need to challenge ourselves. I took a challenge to run that fast. It consumes a lot of energy especially mentally. But I took myself and accepted to be challenged and I challenged the time.”

“I had a friend in India who told me that – the guy is 50 years old now – and he told me he will die before we see a human being run two hours flat. I met him one month ago in New York and I joked ‘You will never die again because you have seen me run two hours.’”

Here are the factors that Eliud Kipchoge says you need to consider for success.


“Self-discipline starts with you. It’s no other person. It starts with you. Start to examine yourself…Self discipline is doing what’s right instead of doing what you feel like doing. That’s the meaning of self-discipline.”

“After accommodating self discipline in your mind, self-discipline can help you to actually get three things. It can save your feelings. Get you back on the course when you try to think otherwise, self discipline can help easily come back and think positively. It helps you do the right thing in the moment for long-term benefits.”

“You should stick to your priorities.”

“Don’t make excuses. When you have decided to do something, do it. No excuses. Then you are self-disciplined.”

“Make discipline your lifestyle. Discipline is not a one-time event. Self-discipline is like building your muscle. It’s like going to the gym. You can not go to the gym today and build your muscle. You should get a program and go slowly by slowly. That’s the way to build your muscle and that’s the way you can have discipline.”

“Only the disciplined ones are free in life. If you aren’t disciplined, you are a slave to your moods. You are a slave to your passions. That’s a fact.”

“There is a sign in one of the nicer schools in Canada. It [says] the best time to plant a tree was 25 years ago. That was the best time to plant a tree. The second-best time is today. Plant the tree of self-discipline.”


“I believe in a philosophy that says to win is actually not important. To be successful is not even important. How to plan and prepare is critical and crucial. When you plan very well, then success can come on your way. Then winning can come on your way.


“In any profession, you should think positively. That’s the driver of your mind. If your mind is really thinking positive then you are on the right track. ‘Pleasure in what you’re doing puts perfection in your work.’ That was a quote by Aristotle.”


“I am here because of teamwork. I am here because sport is a mutual interest. I am here to talk about my success because I am really about teamwork. Teamwork actually helps a lot. Remember in sport, what you have is Hero’s Formula. If you are a hero, then you have a formula and that says 100% of myself is nothing compared to one percent of the whole team. And vice versa. 1% percent of the teams is nothing compared to 100% of myself. And that’s the meaning of teamwork.”


“The law of consistency says you should get motivated. Motivation makes you move. Motivation makes you to go forward.”

“When you bring motivation and discipline (together), then you can be consistent. When you combine it all together, they say if you want to grow, consistency is the key. I’m confident in saying that consistency is key if you want to grow in a new profession. Be it sport. Be it law. Be it all sorts of professions. If you are not consistent, you can not go anywhere. Consistency makes you to grow.”

Be comfortable with being out of your comfort zone

“Accept change…I know it is not really comfortable to adopt change but change in life of a human being or life of any profession is really important. But change can not be forced.”


“Personally, I believe in what I am doing. To run a big marathon and win, it takes five months. When I am on the starting line, my mind starts to think of what I have been doing for the last five months. I believe in my training. I treat myself as the best one on that line because my mind is telling me that I am the best and I believe in what I am doing in the last five months. I can run free. I can run free and that’s what actually has helped me to be successful.”

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