Eliud Kipchoge's coach reveals more about their training regime

Patrick Sang says the Kenyan's mind is his biggest asset, and will carry him to success as he bids to break two hours in Vienna.

By Rory Jiwani

Mental strength and positivity are the attributes which set marathon runner Eliud Kipchoge apart.

That's the view of his coach Patrick Sang, himself an athletics silver medallist at the Barcelona 1992 Olympics in the 3000m steeplechase.

The Kenyan is completing his preparations for the INEOS 1:59 Marathon Challenge in Vienna which has been confirmed for Saturday 12 October with a start time of between 5am and 9am CEST.

And you can watch Kipchoge's historic sub-two hour bid live on Olympic Channel.

The 34-year-old just failed to break two hours at Monza in May 2017, but is determined to make history later this month.

Speaking exclusively to Olympic Channel, Sang said, "Of course, this will not be the first time. We had a chance before in 2017. I think the challenge is not so much not knowing what to expect, but doing the right thing to meet the challenge.

"The key thing that drives us and gives us a lot of motivation is the mind of the athlete that we are dealing with. The guy is so positive and really focussed.

"His belief is no human is limited, and he wants to actualise that belief. He's done it before and he is leading us in this again." - Patrick Sang talking to Olympic Channel

An enduring partnership

Kipchoge started training under Sang at the start of the century, winning the world 5000m title on the track in Paris in 2003.

Two Olympic medals at the distance followed, but it is since switching to the marathon in 2013 that the Kenyan has enjoyed his greatest successes.

Olympic gold at Rio 2016 and the world record in last year's Berlin Marathon are the highlights of an illustrious career, and now he has another landmark in his sights.

Reflecting on their all-conquering partnership, Sang said, "You know, Eliud and I go back many many years. We started our journey together 18 years ago or more than 18 years ago. But what has happened between the two of us is that we've developed an element of serious trust to the point whereby he knows I'm there for the good of his development - for the development of his career and holistically as a person.

"He's given me that trust and it's a big mandate. In itself it's a challenge because you have to think and go the extra mile not to disappoint. And hopefully, going by what has happened and transpired over the years in our relationship, I think it's been a worthwhile relationship. It's been a relationship built on trust. And, you know, the results speak louder than what I'm saying now.

"For 18 years, there is no day Eliud has asked me anything about training. He comes to the training place to train and normally we give him the plan for the day on that specific minute.

"For 18 years he's never asked for the plan for the year, the plan for the week, the plan for the month, no."

"Of course, every year after the end of the season we do a review. And at that moment we look at the strengths and the weaknesses. And then, of course, we prescribe in one way or another what we are looking at to strengthen going to the next cycle."

"I became a student of Eliud"

Sang says the failed Breaking2 attempt at Monza, when Kipchoge clocked 2:00.25, was a turning point in their coach-athlete relationship:

"What stands out probably for me as an individual is that I never anticipated that Monza would give me a different picture about the mental strength of an athlete.

"That became a lesson to me and I became a student. So somehow I became a student of Eliud for some time and that stands out because when a new chapter is open in an event which is different from other events then to me that is something that stands out. Because it showed that the human mind is elastic when it believes in something. You know, the whole body can achieve more.

"I think it reinforced the values that I always believed in. For an athlete to succeed, hard work pays off, as does trust in the systems that support you. But over and above that, you know, it taught me that what the mind has set to do - if that person believes holistically on the mind and follows the mind - the limits are elastic. You can stretch those limits."

Eliud Kipchoge behind pacemakers during Breaking 2 at Monza

This rabbit "cannot escape"

Kipchoge himself says he cannot wait for "the big day" in Vienna.

After the disappointment of Monza two years ago, the Kenyan is determined to achieve the feat this time round.

"You know what they say, 'A rabbit cannot escape for two seasons.' It escaped one season in Monza, but it will not escape this season in Vienna." - Eliud Kipchoge

The marathon Olympic champion and world record holder was speaking to reporters in a conference call just weeks before the race window of 12-20 October.

In September, Kipchoge's training partner Geoffrey Kamworor broke the half-marathon world record in Copenhagen.

Kipchoge congratulated his fellow Kenyan on his achievement and said, "It's really a big inspiration and a sign that we are doing good work in Kaptagat."

At that training base in Kaptagat, Kipchoge has been greeted by a stream of well-wishers from home and abroad ahead of his tilt at history and expressed his delight at "the huge massive support".

"This 1:59 Challenge is really crucial. It's about making history, not about winning a race or competing."

While Kipchoge has stayed training in Kaptagat with Sang, some of his expanding pool of pacemakers went to Vienna to gain first-hand experience of the course.

Kipchoge has not been to the venue but said: "I'm ready for the challenge. Training has been going extremely well. The only change has been a mental change.

"The course is really good. My mind is relaxed now. My heart is happy. I'm only waiting for the big day."

The pacemakers

Assisting Kipchoge in his bid to run the first sub-two hour marathon will be an all-star cast of pacemakers.

A number have headed straight to Vienna after the IAAF World Championships including Ethiopia's 5000m silver medallist Selemon Barega.

The three Ingebrigtsen brothers from Norway - Filip, Henrik and Jakob - will also be in Austria after missing out on medals in Doha.

Olympic 1500m champion Matthew Centrowitz and double world champion Bernard Lagat are also in the group along with fellow American Paul Chelimo who took silver in the Rio 2016 5000m behind Mo Farah.

There are 15 Kenyans, seven Americans and six Ugandans in the list of 41 pacemakers with no fewer than nine nations represented.

Full list of pacemakers for the 1:59 Marathon Challenge

Thomas Ayeko (Uganda), Selemon Barega (Ethiopia), Emmanuel Bett (Kenya), Hillary Bor (USA), Mande Bushendich (Uganda), Matthew Centrowitz (USA), Paul Chelimo (USA), Augustine Choge (Kenya), Victor Chumo (Kenya), Filip Ingebrigtsen (Norway), Henkrik Ingebrigtsen (Norway), Jakob Ingebrigtsen (Norway), Philemon Kacheran (Kenya), Stanley Kebenei (USA), Justus Kimutai (Kenya), Shadrack Kipchirchir (Kenya), Noah Kipkemboi (Kenya), Gideon Kipketer (Kenya), Jacob Kiplimo (Kenya), Marius Kipserem (Kenya), Eric Kiptanui (Kenya), Moses Koech (Kenya), Shadrack Koech (Kenya), Micah Kogo (Kenya), Alex Korio (Kenya), Jonathan Korir (Kenya), Ronald Kwemoi (Kenya), Bernard Lagat (USA), Lopez Lomong (USA), Abdallah Mande (Uganda), Stewart McSweyn (Australia), Kota Murayama (Japan), Ronald Musagala (Uganda), Kaan Kigen Ozbilen (Turkey), Jack Rayner (Australia), Chala Regasa (Ethiopia), Brett Robinson (Australia), Nicholas Rotich (Kenya), Patrick Tiernan (Australia), Timothy Toroitich (Uganda), Julien Wanders (Switzerland).


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