Eliud Kipchoge has compared his attempt to run the first ever sub-two-hour marathon to the first moon landing, and hopes his efforts will provide a bright point during a tumultuous period for athletics.
The Kenyan world record-holder will make his second designated assault on the two-hour barrier in the Ineos 1:59 challenge in Vienna on Saturday.
His previous attempt, as part of Nike’s Breaking2 event at Monza in 2017, came up just short as he ran 2:00.25, but inspired a reimagining of what might be possible in the marathon.
Following that run, Kipchoge smashed the world record – neither the Nike nor Ineos events are eligible to stand as official marks – with a run of 2:01.39 in Berlin last year. However, he says dipping under two hours would be another achievement altogether, and believes he is primed to do so.
“To run in Berlin and to run in Vienna are two different things,” he said. “Berlin is running and breaking a world record. Vienna is running and making history in this world, like the first man to go to the moon.
“In this world, there is nothing called 100 per cent. Even the fastest car you cannot be 100 per cent when it’s on the road – it might get a flat tyre. But I can assure you that I am calm and I’m really looking forward to Saturday.”
The 34-year-old’s historic attempt comes at a time when the sport has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons. Alberto Salazar, head coach of Nike’s Oregon Project, was banned for four years over doping violations last week, while the World Championships in Doha were marred by poor attendances and brutal conditions for the marathons and race walks.
When asked whether a sub-two clocking would help to improve the sport’s image against a backdrop of controversy, Kipchoge said: “It is a noble cause.
“I will give you an example: In a garden there is flowers and there are weeds. In Vienna, we are talking of the flowers. Let us concentrate on the flowers which can prosper and make everybody in this world be happy.”
Kipchoge is yet to confirm plans for his next official marathon, though he will return to championship racing to defend his Olympic title in Tokyo next summer.
A successful run in Vienna will no doubt raise questions about the possibility of breaking two hours in a record-eligible race, but Kipchoge insists he is not thinking that far ahead.
“I come from Africa,” he said. “And above all I come from Kenya, whereby you are taught not to chase two rabbits – all of them will escape. Chase only one.
“My mind is on Saturday, to break the two-hour barrier, and other things will come after that.”