We have proof: humans are capable of running a marathon distance in less than two hours. That is the simplest conclusion to draw from Eliud Kipchoge's incredible feat in Vienna in the early hours of Saturday morning, when the Kenyan became the first man to break a barrier that for so long had been deemed impossible.

And irrespective of anything else, it truly was astonishing. It was certainly captivating. It was, perhaps, superhuman. His finishing time of one hour, 59 minutes and 40 seconds will be remembered forever and he deserves every accolade that will be bestowed upon him.

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Yet for all the undoubted brilliance of the greatest marathon runner in history's accomplishment, this was also a feat of technology. For many, it was not sport but a science experiment conducted by people with self-serving interests, despite the stated tag line of wanting to prove "No Human Is Limited".

The chemical company Ineos had spent a reported £15 million on this event and every element was conducted with impressive military precision. From the relaid road cutting through the Prater park to the bright green grid projected by laser from the pacing car and ensuring a near-perfect even speed; from the flawless mid-run changeovers in pacemaker personnel to every steward being equipped with a broom to sweep away any falling leaves. Nothing - absolutely nothing - was left to chance.


At the centre of it all was one humble man from Kenya. Kipchoge has always remained adamant he does not care that this would never count as an official world record due to the manufactured nature of the event. He already holds the official marathon world record - not to mention the Olympic title and numerous major marathon victories - but this was a chance to do what no other person had ever managed.

Unlike a conventional race, which ebbs and flows with the unpredictable nature of sport, this feat remained strangely static throughout. It started exactly as it finished.

There was Kipchoge, dressed in white and wearing prototype Nike shoes, flanked by seven black-shirted pacemakers in arrowhead formation to shield him from the wind. There were support personnel cycling by his side, ear pieces attached, in constant contact and ready to hand deliver fluids direct to Kipchoge's hand so he need not veer even a metre off course.

There were also thousands of fans who had flown around the world to line the course and watch history being made. It was enthralling - a lesson in how to turn one man's marathon run into so much more.

Marathon runner Eliud Kipchoge from Kenya crossing the finish line. Photo / AP
Marathon runner Eliud Kipchoge from Kenya crossing the finish line. Photo / AP

Courtesy of the pace car, the speed almost never deviated. The quickest kilometre split was 2min 48sec; the slowest 2min 52sec. It did not just happen by chance. Precision was the order of the day.

Then there were the shoes. The existing version of the Nike Vaporfly trainer is so effective that international runners sponsored by other companies have attempted to hide the fact they are wearing them by drawing over the Nike branding. With their carbon plate and huge foam midsole, they have been described by some as legal doping.

Then consider that Kipchoge was wearing a previously unseen version. New, even more advanced, technology. Perfectly legal of course, but a total game changer - arguably the single greatest innovation in long-distance running.

But for all that, a man was still required to fulfil the task. One human had to take all that planning and technology, and harness it to achieve the impossible. Kipchoge was that man.


When Roger Bannister broke the four-minute barrier for the mile 65 years ago, he did so in a time trial rather than a race. Interestingly, because of that he would rank the achievement as insignificant in comparison to his other triumphs, but his feat has gone down in the annals of legend. What Kipchoge achieved on a chilly Saturday morning in Vienna doubtless will as well.