Eliud Kipchoge runs first ever sub-two hour marathon

Kenya's marathon Olympic champion and world record holder Kipchoge clocked 1:59:40 on a historic morning in Vienna

By Ken Browne

Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge has run the world's first ever sub-two hour marathon, clocking 1:59:40 in Vienna.

He hugged his wife and children, and coach Patrick Sang after crossing the line, before being mobbed by his team of 41 pacemakers

It was history in the making from the beginning as Kipchoge and his pack of elite runners ran the perfect race in the perfect setting, cheered on throughout in an electric atmosphere.

Watch the full replay of the Kenyan's historic run here:

Kipchoge set the marathon world record of 2:01:39 in Berlin in September 2018 but said previously, "Running Berlin and running Vienna are two different things, Berlin is running and prepping a world record, Vienna is running and making history in this world, like the first man to go to the moon."

The straight, flat course through the Prater Park was manicured down to the last conker being cleared from the street ahead of the marathon challenge.

Kipchoge smiled through the hurt, and won his race against time.

"We have made history together, and together we can make this world a beautiful world." - Eliud Kipchoge

"This shows no-one is limited"

This feat completes an incredible journey for Kipchoge who was born on a farm in Kenya and lost his father as a child.

Having run kilometres to school everyday as a child, he has now achieved something that many saw as impossible.

In terms of human achievement, it is being mentioned in the same breath as Neil Armstrong walking on the moon, Edmund Hillary ascent of Mount Everest, and Roger Bannister's first four-minute mile in 1954.

“I am feeling good," Kipchoge said afterwards, "it has taken 65 years for a human to make history in sport. After Roger Bannister it took another 65 years… I’m happy to be the man to run under two hours.

"No human is limited, and I’m expecting more people to do it after today." - Eliud Kipchoge

Kipchoge had a message for his fellow runners who helped him to the line:

“The 41 pacemakers are among the best athletes in the whole world … to all of them I want to say thank you, thank you for doing the job. We made history together.”

Kipchoge's coach Sang was also delighted, "I'm happy for what he has achieved. He has actually inspired all of us that we can stretch our limits in our lives and we can do more than what we think we can do. Everything was perfect.

"For the sport, it's challenging other athletes that they can perform better than they think. For humanity, whatever level you are in you can move yourself to another level.

"Eliud has told us that records are meant to be broken. So I'm sure down the road someone will come and say I want to try it, but history has been made. It's unbelievable."

Sir Jim Ratcliffe, Ineos chairman and CEO, said that he was in tears at the finish line, as was everyone else:

“Even the guy driving the pace car was crying, the tears were streaming down his face. That last kilometre, where he (Kipchoge) accelerated and he came through on his own, it was super-human really. I can’t believe he ran the first half-marathon in under an hour, and then he had to do that again.”

Electric avenue

The excitement crackled on a crisp morning in Vienna on the Reichsbruecke Bridge, a big cheer going up at exactly 8:15am as the starter gun went off right on time, people lining the street five and six deep to witness history in the making.

Around 25,000 people in all populated the beautiful course that wound onto the Hauptallee straight through the picturesque Prater Park.

Breaking down the last great barrier in distance running was a team effort with Kipchoge assisted by 41 pacemakers.

He set off with that smooth, fluent style at a pace of around 21km (13 miles) per hour, with five runners in front of him and two behind in a sort of V formation.

The Kenyan wore a white vest with the pacemakers in all black.

Guided by green laser lines projected on the road from a pace making car right from the start line, the pacesetters' precision running was evident as they went along at a metronomic two minutes 50 seconds for each kilometre.

Team effort

The smoothness of Kipchoge's running was matched by the seamless transitions of the pacemakers who rotated in and out to keep the main man on course.

The first team captain who led the opening seven-man team surrounding Kipchoge was double Olympic medallist Bernard Lagat who wanted to be part of this at 44 years of age.

Lagat was clear about his feelings for Kipchoge after the race:

"I love this guy, he inspires us all, I want to adopt him as my little brother." - Bernard Lagat

As the pace setters tagged in and out and tired there were a couple of ragged moments and a near trip about half an hour from home, but overall the entire team did an incredible job helping to achieve this extraordinary feat.


Five teams of pace setters were led by five captains.

Swiss Julien Wanders, who trains in Kenya with Kipchoge, explained what the captains’ responsibility was:

"My role as a captain is very important as Eliud is just supposed to follow me, not think about anything, just follow me, and I have to communicate to the other runners to move forward or back, to move out wider, to put more distance between us and Eliud."

The 41-strong team of pace-setters which included some of the best runners in the world including the three Ingebrigtsen brothers, world 5,000m silver medallist Selemon Barega, Paul Chelimo, Rio 2016 1500m gold medallist Matt Centrowitz, and fellow Kenyans Noah Kipkemboi, Emmanuel Bett and Nicholas Rotich.

"I don't think it's set in just what an honour this is." - Matt Centrowitz

Everything was meticulously prepared, right down to the men clearing the conkers off the course as they fell from the chestnut trees.

And the belief that this was possible grew at the halfway point as the half-marathon split came in at under an hour, 11 seconds inside the pace required for two hours.

Historic ending

The energy built and the atmosphere was pure electricity as Kipchoge neared the finish line, surer with every step that this audacious attempt was going to be successful.

People climbed trees and clambered onto the roofs of portable toilets on the final Hauptallee stretch to get a better view of the finishing line.

Kipchoge sensed that the moment was near and he actually accelerated on the approach to the line, waving the pacemakers away to run the last 200 metres alone.

He smiled, waved, clapped, pointed and flashed the thumbs to a crowd which roared its approval.

There were tears as he crossed the line under the two-hour mark and hugged his wife Grace and three children - the first time they had ever seen him run in the flesh - as the emotions flowed.

The carefully choreographed finish went out the window and chaos reigned as the Kenyan was hoisted aloft on the shoulders of the pace setters, and people danced and cried and embraced each other.

That joy was mirrored across the world with millions watching him succeed in his epic feat, especially in Kipchoge's homeland.


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