Kenya’s world marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge came close to being the first athlete to run a marathon in less than two hours, after he missed the record by seconds at the Monza circuit in Italy.
The 32-year-old world champion delivered one of his best performances on Saturday to finish the 26.2-mile distance in 2:0:25 hours, just 26 seconds away from setting the coveted two-hour marathon record.
However, Kipchoge managed to break Dennis Kimetto’s world record of 2:02:57 hours, although it will not go down as an official world record due to the use of pacemakers and drinks that were given to runners by scooters, reports the Guardian.
“I rank this as the highest-ever performance in my life,” Kipchoge said after the race.
Also participating in the sub-two hour marathon, which was sponsored by global sportswear brand Nike, were Eritrea’s Zersenay Tadese and Ethiopia’s Lelisa Desisa.
Early last year, Nike triggered controversy when it paid the three African marathoners to forgo the London and Berlin marathons this year.
But Kipchoge maintains that his aim of participating in the early morning race, which was labeled the “Breaking2 Project,” was to prove to the world that it is possible to run a full marathon in less than two hours.
In a congratulatory message to the Kenyan marathoner, Nike CEO Mark Parker said millions of people around the world watched on as history was being written.
“It’s a moment of global inspiration that will encourage every athlete, in every community, to push the limits of their potential,” said Parker.
Nike’s biggest rival, Adidas, is also planning to host its own sub-two-hour marathon but in a race setting.
Kipchoge ran each mile at an average pace of 4 minutes and 36 seconds and looked the strongest of them all, especially after the 20th mile.
But despite his attempts to sprint in the closing stages, he could not hit the target of touching the finish line in less than two hours.
In order to achieve a sub-two clocking, Kipchoge would have effectively had to run 17 seconds for 100 meters 422 times in a row, according to the BBC.
“My mind was fully on the two hours, but the last kilometer was behind the schedule. This journey has been good – it has been seven months of dedication,” Kipchoge was quoted by the BBC as saying.
Only a few media houses were allowed to witness the attempt at the race circuit, which saw some news agencies misreport Kipchoge’s time a second quicker until Nike confirmed the 2:00:25 hours.