Eliud Kipchoge: The Man Behind The New World Record

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The man behind the new marathon world record. Eliud Kipchoge: The Man Behind The New World Record www.runnerclick.com

“Athletics is not so much about the legs. It’s about the heart and mind.” – Eliud Kipchoge

On 16 September 2018, the world watched in awe as Eliud Kipchoge set a new marathon world record in Berlin in a blazing 02:01:39. And while social media has since erupted in awe of this mind-boggling feat, the humble world champion has remained seemingly unaffected by it all.

So who exactly is this champion with the humble heart and astonishing running talent? Here’s a brief glimpse of the man behind the new world record.

Humble beginnings

Born in the town of Kapsisiywa in the North Rift of Kenya on 5 November 1984, Kipchoge was the youngest of four children. He was raised by his single mother – a teacher – after his dad died while he was still very young.

Growing up in a farming community, he was no stranger to hard work. It is said that he often cycled to the nearby town of Kapsabet towing multiple gallons of cow’s milk to sell at the town market. In addition, he also ran approximately two miles to school every day. And while he wasn’t serious about participating in athletics back then, these daily running commutes certainly helped prepare him for his life as a running champion.

As fate would have it, Kipchoge’s childhood home was located just a stone’s throw away from that of former Olympic steeplechase medalist, Patrick Sang. The two inevitably met in 2001, when Kipchoge was 16 years old, and Sang has been his trainer ever since. The two have a very strong bond, and according to Kipchoge, he owes much of his success to Sang: “If I hadn’t met him, my life would be different”.

The makings of a champion

Kipchoge kicked off his running career by winning the Kenyan trials of the junior IAAF World Cross Country Championships a year later, in 2002. He went on to finish fifth overall at the World Cross Country Championship in Dublin later that year, helping the junior Kenyan team to bag gold for their team effort.

But it wasn’t until Kipchoge won gold in the 5,000 m event at the 2003 World Athletics Championships that the world sat up and took notice. In this race, Kipchoge beat acclaimed Ethiopian runner, Kenenisa Bekele, as well as world record holder in the 1,500 m and mile, Hicham El Guerrouj from Morocco – all at the tender age of 18.

“The boss man”

But that was just the beginning. In fact, it’s not hard to see why Kipchoge’s training mates affectionately refer to him as “the boss man”. Since his much-publicized World Athletics Championships victory in 2003, Kipchoge went on to win bronze in the 5,000 m at the 2004 Olympic Games and silver in the same event at the 2008 Olympics. And although he failed to qualify for the 2012 Olympics – something that he labels as his “greatest disappointment” – he more than made up for it by placing first in the Olympic marathon finals in 2016.

4 Mijl van Groningen” by Michiel Jelijs. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.

But perhaps it is Kipchoge’s latest victory at the 2018 Berlin Marathon, complete with a new world record, that he will best be remembered for. And, based on his post-marathon speech, it certainly ranks high as a personal highlight too: “I am just so incredibly happy to have finally run the world record as I never stopped having belief in myself.”

Kipchoge’s recipe for success

So what is his secret? To what does this humble hero attribute his success? In a nutshell, this: Hard work. While a number of Kipchoge’s fellow countrymen (and -women) have been banned for doping, he firmly believes that there’s no short-cut to running greatness: “I always tell people that this is a really simple deal: Work hard. If you work hard, follow what’s required and set your priorities right, then you can really perform without taking shortcuts. If you’re taking shortcuts, you can’t be free”.

4 Mijl van Groningen” by Michiel Jelijs. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.

And Kipchoge certainly walks the talk. As a self-made millionaire, he still prefers to spend most of his time living in a very basic training camp a few kilometers out of Eldoret instead of at his spacious family homestead. At this camp, he shares accommodation with his fellow runners and does his bit to contribute to the day-to-day functioning of the camp, including cleaning the toilets and weeding the gardens. He also sacrifices a lot of family time with his wife and three children, who live in Eldoret, to stay at the camp and focus on his running. Says Kipchoge: “Being away from the kids is really hard as they all want to see Daddy. But I stay in training camp because of my memory of being motivated.”

What better man to have as our reigning world marathon champion than this humble, hard-working hero.

 

Featured image credit:4 Mijl van Groningen” by Michiel Jelijs. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Sources

  1. Cathal Dennehy, The Simple Life of One of the World’s Best Marathoners, Online publication, Apr 20, 2016
  2. Wycliffe Nyamasege, The greatest marathoner ever: What you need to know about Eliud Kipchoge, Online publication, Sep 16, 2018
  3. Success Story Staff, Eliud Kipchoge: London Marathon 2018 Winner, Online publication,
  4. Sean Ingle, Eliud Kipchoge smashes world marathon record by 78 seconds in Berlin, Online publication, Sep 16, 2018
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