By Dorcas S
I have written a couple of pieces on sports and sports management in Kenya and most have lambasted the incompetence and corruptibility of the country’s sports authorities ACROSS all events including distance running – an event Kenya has dominated despite the afore-mentioned challenges.
Let me state an uncomfortable truth:
Eliud Kipchoge broke the world record in the marathon IN SPITE of the Kenya Amateur Athletic Association (KAAA).
In blazing through the relatively flat course in 2 hours, one minute and thirty-nine seconds (2:01:39) during Sunday’s running of the Berlin Marathon, the 33-year-old shaved off more than one minute from countryman Dennis Kimetto’s time of 2:02:57 on the same course back in 2014. Eluid was almost five minutes (4:44) ahead of the 2nd place finisher – another Kenyan Amos Kipruto. Kenya took all three podium positions with Wilson Kipsang coming in 3rd overall.
Kipchoge run the last 26km (16.2miles) ALONE – this after dropping the last pacemaker shortly after the 16km (10miles) mark. He blazed through the proverbial “Wall” (Mile18-22) at a jaw-dropping 4:30/Mile pace and finished the race averaging a otherworldly 4:38/Mile!
That’s 400M in 67secs; 800M in 2:15 (about 32seconds behind David Rudisha’s world best time of 1:43 – the difference is that Rudisha run his 800M once while Kipchoge run eighty-four (84) 800M back-to-back-to-back-to).
As I was listening to the announcer (NBC) breaking down Kipchoge’s approach to running, one statement jumped at me. The statement, a banner from last night stated thus:
“What he (Kipchoge) has between the ears is what sets him apart…”
Eliud Kipchoge’s approach to running a marathon is more cerebral than brawn.
This methodical Zen-like approach to what has hitherto been viewed as a physical undertaking is a perspective reiterated in a piece by the venerable New York Times titled “Eliud Kipchoge Is the Greatest Marathoner, Ever”.
The paper (Scott Caciola) writes that “Kipchoge, the sport’s philosopher king….(has the) physique of an anatomical sketch, a body engineered for peak cardiovascular performance. There is not a gram of excess material.”
That description used to be the be-all-end-all when discussing the country’s domination in the field – distance running. That the diminutive stature of the mostly Kalenjin runners gave them an advantage over other runners.
Over the years, that has been but one aspect of persons who’ve had success in distance running: Small and light physique – with a VOmax this side of an AMG’s consumption of 91Octane gas as it screams down the interstate! Along with fellow Kalenjins, Kipchoge’s lung capacity is courtesy of the high-altitude climes of their Rift Valley home and over the years; the relentless discipline and training has allowed Kenyan runners to develop a pain threshold due to lactate build-up that is second to none.
Eliud Kipchoge has seemingly taken the three components of distance running (VOmax, Lung Capacity and Lactate Threshold or Inflection Point) and added a Socratic approach that has never been seen in the sport – certainly not from Kenyans.
It is this intellectual approach to his training AND his racing that the NBC Sports Network announcer was alluding to – that tis Eliud’s brain, that’s between his ears, that sets him apart from the other runners.
The avid reader Kipchoge quotes liberally and freely from Aristotle, sports biographies and self-help manuals including a mutual favorite – Stephen Covey’s “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”.
Over his decade-plus running career, Kipchoge has crystallized his training and race-day preparation into a formula:
M x D = C where “M” is Motivation; “D” is Discipline and “C” is Consistency.
The man’s Consistency is a function of his Motivation and world-class Discipline; this a variant of Bobby Unser’s “Success is where preparation and opportunity meet” and many other quotes that make formulaic, training (or such-like undertakings).
This prescribed approach to one of the world’s most demanding sport – if not THE most – has kept the sinewy Kipchoge injury-free in a sport notorious for chronic musculoskeletal injuries.
The man’s body is his temple.
Those muscular and wiry legs are his office and pulling it all together, housed in a cranium whose aesthetics belies his age but oozes the wisdom he dispenses freely, is intellect, a brain that is rare in the sport.
Thankfully, that same intellect has allowed Eliud Kipchoge to keep Kenya’s corrupt and ravenous sports authority at bay.
Sunday morning in Berlin was the culmination of consistent hard work and dedication. It was also a tribute to a man who reveres his trade and approaches it with pride commensurate with said reverence.
What millions saw was a picture of biomechanical efficiency and mental focus – all made possible by what is between Eliud Kipchoge’s ears and to that, I’d add, what is inside the left side of his chest cavity.
And it was efficient and effective with little wasted motion.
It was simply beautiful to watch.