Two record breaking running events took place over the weekend of Oct. 12 — one in Austria and one in Chicago.
Kipchoge runs marathon in under two hours
The first amazing event was the specially created INEOS challenge for Olympic Champion Eluid Kipchoge of Kenya on Oct. 12 in Vienna, Austria. The goal was to see if an athlete could break the two-hour barrier with absolute perfect conditions. Kipchoge attempted the same feat in 2017 in Italy but came up just short.
The INEOS team learned from that try and invested more research on the needed physical and scientific conditions, and the team was more prepared.
In order for Kipchoge to break the two-hour mark, he had to run a 4:30 per mile pace for 26.2 miles. Kipchoge was accompanied by 41 different pacers to help break the wind with groups of seven pacers switching out every 9.6 kilometers. A car also drove in front of the runners to point the optimal route, and people handed fluids and gels to Kipchoge. All of his fluid and gel intake was calculated to make sure that he was taking in the right amount.
The course started with a run to Prater Park, where Kipchoge would run four 9.6k loops before making a turn for the final stretch. He asked spectators to come out and line the course to help him push through. Kipchoge and his first pace group ran the first 5k in 14:10. When the group reached the 10k mark, it was just ahead of pace at a time of 28:20. Kipchoge now just had a little over 30k to go at around the same pace. The group ended up getting to the 21k mark, which is just over 12 miles, in just under an hour.
As he approached the halfway point, he was figured to be about 10 seconds under the two-hour time. With pacers help, Kipchoge kept his pace consistent through the next 20k. Kipchoge seemed destined to break the two-hour mark as he headed for the finish line. As Kipchoge approached the line, his pacers dropped back and let Kipchoge have the moment to himself as he crossed the line in 1:59:40.
The International Association of Athletics Federations will not recognize the feat as a world record because of the streamlined conditions that were in place, which broke multiple rules within the competitive marathon standard. But before this race, the idea of someone running faster than two hours in a marathon was only an imagination. Even with Kipchoge having perfect conditions for his attempt, the feat itself has put Kipchoge as one of the greatest of all time. The breaking of the two-hour barrier is the biggest accomplishment in the running world since Roger Bannister broke the four-minute barrier in the mile in 1954.
Kosgei breaks women’s marathon record
The second major running event that weekend came the next day when Kenyan Brigid Kosgei broke the women’s marathon record in the Chicago Marathon. The course starts in the suburbs of Chicago, with a start and finish at Grant Park, and the course is very flat, which has led to many personal records and fast times.
The front pack of elite women runners reached the 5k mark in 15:28, an average of 4:58 per mile. In front of this pack was the defending Chicago marathon champion Kosgei. The pace had many experts concerned that Kosgei and her pacers went out too fast. As they approached the 10k mark, Kosgei and the pacers slowed it down just a little as they crossed in 31:28, a whole 30 seconds slower than the first 5,000 meters.
At this point Kosgei was running a 5:08 per mile pace. Even with it being the Chicago course, running aficionados were still skeptical that the fast pace would be maintained. But when Kosgei reached the 20k mark, she was just 1.1 seconds off of the pace that world record holder Paula Radcliffe ran in 2003 in the London Marathon.
Kosgei’s time at the halfway point was 66:59. This is when many people started to wonder if history was going to be made as Kosgei had not deviated from her pace and was closing in on world record time.
When Kosegi reached the 30k marker, she was officially over a second ahead of Radcliffe's pace from 2003 and was not showing any signs of slowing down. When Kosgei hit the 40k mark, she was a full two seconds ahead of record pace with a little over a mile to go.
This is when everyone knew we were in for a special moment. Kosegi crossed the finish line in 2:14:04, shattering Radcliffe’s record by 1:22, a record that had stood for 16 years. Runner's World broke down how impressive Kosegi’s run was. Kosegi’s average 5k pace was 15:53, while her average mile was 5:06. Kosegi’s time for the first half of the race and the second half were a difference of six seconds. The first 13.1 miles she ran in a time of 66:59, the second 13.1 miles, 67:05. Both of those times break the U.S. women’s half marathon record. The final amazing statistic was her time from the 35k mark until the finish. Kosegi ran the distance in 22:50, compared to defending male champion Mo Farah who ran in 23:35.
Biggest weekend in running history
To put the two events into perspective, within a 36-hour time span, a 16-year world record was destroyed in an incredible performance. That alone would have been incredible. But just a mere 24 hours earlier, a performance that many thought was not humanly possible was accomplished.
Whether you are a fan of running or not, the two events are something that make you remember where you were when you found out. The two Kenyans spectacular feats over the weekend of Oct. 12-13, 2019, should be considered the biggest two days in running history.