This past weekend will go down in history as an important one for endurance athletes. Not only did the 2019 Ironman World Championship see a new world record set on the legendary course in Kona, Hawaii, but one of the last great running challenges was finally overcome too. In both cases, we saw some of the best athletes in the world prove once again that human beings are capable of amazing things when we set our minds to it.
The most obvious of these new high-water athletic marks for athletes is no doubt Kenyan marathon Eliud Kipchoge’s breaking of the two-hour barrier. For years there has been speculation as to whether or not a runner could ever run a full-marathon distance in less than two hours, and Kipchoge finally managed to pull off that feat, finishing in 1 hour, 59 minutes, and 40 seconds. His mind-blowing performance took place in Vienna, Austria on a road course that was specifically selected for this event, which wasn’t an official race, but was instead a carefully curated showdown between Kipchoge and the clock. In the end, he was able to accomplish something that no other human has ever been able to do, push the barriers for human endurance even further.
Unfortunately, Kipchoge’s accomplishment won’t count as an official record. Because it didn’t take place in a sanctioned race, and included three-dozen pace setters, a support car, and lasers that marked the optimal path throughout the run, the sub-two hour marathon will not be officially sanctioned by any of the international governing bodies that oversee the sport of running. Instead, it shows the talent, dedication, and skill of Kipchoge himself, as well as partners such as Nike that designed him a custom pair of running shoes specifically for the event.
Despite all of those advantages however, Kipchoge’s performance was outstanding and is already serving as a source of inspiration for others. I for one, think it is only a matter of time before someone actually does break two hours in an actual race, with Kipchoge himself being the most likely candidate. He has flirted with that time in the past and is the current official world record holder at 2 hours, 1 minute, 39 seconds as well. That’s two minutes off his pace, which translates to 4.5 seconds faster per mile. That’s not easy, but its also not insurmountable.
Even though this was a somewhat contrived event, it is impressive none the less. I want to send out a hardy congratulations to Kipchoge and the entire team that worked on putting this together. I look forward to seeing this mark equalled or broken during a “real” race in the future.
Eliud Kipchoge wasn’t the only one showing off his speed and endurance this past weekend. In Kona, Hawaii the Ironman World Championships were taking place with the best triathletes in the world in attendance. As usual, it was a spirited race, although when the dust settled there was not only a new champion, but a new world record time as well, courtesy of German Jan Frodeno.
Frodeno, who also won the gold medal for triathlon at the 2008 Olympic Games, convincingly won his third Ironman WC by finishing with a time of 7 hours, 51 minutes, and 13 seconds. That was more than eight minutes faster than second place finisher, Tim O’Donnell of the U.S. That’s not bad for swimming 2.4 miles (3.86 km), cycling 112 miles (180.25 km), and running a full 26.2-mile (42.2 km) marathon.
Frodeno was joined on the top of the podium by fellow-German Anne Haug, who won the women’s WC with a time of 8:40:14, which was more than six minutes faster than her closest rival as well. This made Saturday a rather successful and happy day for German endurance athletes over the weekend.
Congrats to both Frodeno and Haug on their big wins too.