The elite distance runners continue to wow the world, and Sunday was no different at the New York City Marathon.
Joyciline Jepkosgei, 25, of Kenya became the youngest woman to win the NYC Marathon since 2001. She’s also the only woman to win the NYC Marathon and Half Marathon, which she won back in March. Kenya had a great showing in the men’s division as well, taking first and second places. Geoffrey Kamworor won the race in 2 hours, 8 minutes and 13 seconds.
The New York City Marathon, however, didn’t receive nearly the amount of attention as Eliud Kipchoge’s impressive — yet overrated — marathon in Austria on Oct. 12.
Perhaps Kipchoge deserved the amount of attention he received, as he did something no human has ever done before: He completed a marathon in less than two hours. After a previous attempt in 2017, he finally succeeded with a time of 1:59.40. That’s 26.2 miles at a 4:33.8 per mile pace.
Despite this amazing feat, the 34-year old Kenyan technically didn’t even break his own world record of 2:01:39 because of the level of assistance he received during his stunt in the streets of Vienna.
During the race, seven other runners surrounded Kipchoge in a V‑shape, operating as pacesetters and wind blockers. The course they ran on had been leveled out ahead of time, ensuring an even surface with limited hills. And they followed a car with a green laser shining on the ground to show them where they needed to be to keep on pace.
Kipchoge compared it to going to the moon, and his achievement received about as much coverage as any moon landing would. The president of Kenya tweeted, “You’ve done it, you’ve made history and made Kenya proud while at it…” He’s even going to name a street after Kipchoge.
This is not the event Kipchoge ought to be remembered for, though. He has done far more than follow a pace car in a perfectly organized race to break the 2‑hour barrier. He nearly broke that barrier on his own in a competitive race just over a year ago, but that didn’t receive nearly the same attention as Saturday’s fixed run.
Kipchoge won major marathons across the globe, including races in Chicago, London, and Berlin. He earned gold in the marathon at the 2016 Rio Olympics. His world record of 2:01:39 in 2018 smashed the previous by one minute and 17 seconds. He is the greatest male marathoner of all time, but it’s not because he was the first human to run a marathon in under two hours.
Everyone ought to remember the day Kipchoge crossed the finish line to set the world record in Berlin. This was a true race — a large competitive field of runners behind him, no wind blocks, no pace cars, and no alterations to the course.
Kipchoge won that 2018 Berlin race by a mile, literally. Fellow Kenyan Amos Kipruto took second place, finishing in 2:06:48. At Kipruto’s pace of 4:49 per mile, he couldn’t close the five-minute gap that separated him from Kipchoge.
Let’s also remember that Kipchoge was 33 years old when he set that record. Out of the top 20 athletes to run any marathon in 2018, only five others were born in the 1980s, and only one was older than Kipchoge. He’s not only the best, but he’s been one of the best for the longest.
He has managed to stay competitive since he began his professional career in 2002, and more impressively, he’s run a marathon each year since he began competing in the event in 2013. Most professional runners struggle to stay healthy enough for that long to compete at such a level for that many consecutive years.
Kipchoge is nearing a 20-year long career, beating the average NBA career of 4.5 years and an NFL career of 3.3 years. Granted, he’s not enduring physical contact with other people, but he has been running more than a hundred miles a week for years.
Running is a taxing sport, never mind running 26.2 miles at a pace faster than most people could ever run one, and Kipchoge has put his body under such stress for nearly two decades and handled it incredibly well. He was already the best before Saturday, and running with pacesetters, pace cars, a flat course, and wind blockers doesn’t prove he’s any better.
Calli Townsend is a junior studying sports management and is an assistant sports editor for The Collegian.