Athletics expert explains why Kiptum has an edge over Kipchoge in sub-two-hour open marathon attempt

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ATHLETICS Athletics expert explains why Kiptum has an edge over Kipchoge in sub-two-hour open marathon attempt

Joel Omotto 08:32 - 16.10.2023

Following Kelvin Kiptum’s world record run in Chicago, experts feel he is best placed to run a fast ever sub-two-hour marathon due to a number of factors that give him an advantage.

Kelvin Kiptum’s new world marathon record of 2:00:35 at the Chicago Marathon has re-ignited debate on the possibility of a sub-two-hour marathon being run in the near future.

Kiptum became the first man to run under 2:01 in Chicago, bringing closer what some had thought would never happen in an open marathon.

Eliud Kipchoge, whose record of 2:01:09 was broken by Kiptum, became the first man to run a marathon under two hours when he clocked 1:59:40 in Vienna, Austria in what was dubbed ‘INEOS 1:59 Challenge’ but his record was not ratified due to the setup of the challenge.

It was not an open event and Kipchoge was handed fluids by his support team throughout. The run featured a pace car and included rotating teams of other runners pacing Kipchoge in a formation designed to reduce wind resistance and maximise efficiency.

But in the wake of Kiptum’s record, experts have started believing that it is possible, especially given the 23-year-old’s rise to prominence after recording three of the sixth fastest times in just three marathons, all run under one year.

He made his debut in Valencia last December, clocking 2:01:53, the fifth fastest time in history, to win the race, before another dominant run at this year’s London Marathon in April, stopping the clock at 2:01:25, the second fastest time ever when he missed Kipchoge’s world record by just 16 seconds.

“The physical aspect of coaching is 25 percent, the mental aspect is 75 percent. Eliud Kipchoge made it possible that it can be done, now this young man has come in and it is just a matter of time before he will be able to run under two hours,” says veteran athletics coach Stephen Mwaniki.

“However, I do not know how long because if you look at Eliud, he has a long time being in the business of running but the sub-two-hour is possible, he can do it. The mind has said it is possible so you just do the training, go positive about it and it will be done.”

Mwaniki feels either Kipchoge or Kiptum are capable of doing it since running under two hours will need a lot of mental preparation which they have both shown.

He, however, feels Kiptum has a better chance of doing it since he is younger, added to his unique style of running.

“You look at what (Kiptum) has been able to do within three marathons, so it means he is capable because if you look at Chicago, he did not have good pacemakers, he struggled alone all the way up to the end of it,” added Mwaniki.

“The pacemaker he had was not very strong, you could see he was trying to look at him to move but if he can get good ones the way Eliud gets them, then he can do it because he is schooled in a very nice way.

“He has this concept of running the first half slower and then the second one faster. That in coaching we call it negative splits, so with negative split, he will be able to get it right. Age is also on his side.”

The two runners have also not shied away from the topic with Kipchoge recently saying it is just a matter of time before it is done.

“It is really possible to run sub-2 in an open marathon. When I was training to break the two-hour barrier, most people and even the scientists were saying that the first human to run under two hours will be in the year 2075 but look what happened, I broke the two-hour barrier in 2019,” he told CNN this month.

“It is possible provided we get the right people to run and to put in their minds and hearts and in practice.”

Whether the right person is Kiptum or the marathon GOAT remains to be seen but the youngster is also not afraid of an attempt at the historic feat.

“It depends on someone, records are made to be broken. My plan is to run a faster time and all I need is to train hard. If I prepare well, it is possible,” Kiptum said last week, when quizzed over his chances of running a marathon under two hours.

American sprint legend Michael Johnson had an interesting view in the wake of Kiptum’s record in Chicago.

“Marathons are riding a wave of world record excitement that will probably continue the next couple of years. But eventually, it’ll stop. Best to keep competition at the center of the narrative, and the records as a bonus,” Johnson wrote on X (formerly Twitter).

Since Paul Tergat’s world record of 2:04:55 in Berlin 20 years ago, it took 11 years before Dennis Kimetto ran an under 2:03 marathon, clocking 2:02:57 at the same venue in 2014.

However, there has been an avalanche of lower times in the last five years when the six fastest times have been run, all under 2:02.

Kipchoge was the fast to do it in Berlin in 2018 when he clocked a world record 2:01:39 before Kenenisa Bekele came close to breaking it the following year, when he ran 2:01:41 in the German capital.

The Kenyan marathon great would lower his own mark to 2:01:09 in Berlin last year before Kiptum appeared on the scene with 2:01:53 in Valencia last December, 2:01:25 in London this year, and now 2:00:35.

With this trend, added to the emergence of ‘super-shoes’ it appears it is just a matter of time before the sub-two-hour marathon is achieved.