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Bernard Lagat on the INEOS 1:59 Challenge

INEOS 1:59 Challenge pacemaker Bernard Lagat of the USA has enjoyed a stellar career. The 2007 World 1500 and 5000m champion is also an Olympic 1500m silver and bronze medallist and three-time World Indoor champion. Now aged 44, the Kenyan-born athlete set a world masters marathon record of 2:12:10 in Gold Coast in July.

I have known Eliud since we were young. Our homes were just a few kilometres apart and Eliud’s mum was my grade one teacher. Eliud’s older twin sisters were in my grade one class and I later recall Eliud’s mum taking a young Eliud to school in his khaki coloured trousers and green sweater!

It is a little hard to comprehend the journey Eliud has taken, from that little boy to marathon superstar. I’m very proud of him.

He later developed into a world-class runner and we became good friends on the athletics circuit. We would regularly chat in Nandi and talk about life growing up in our home villages.

Knowing Eliud for as long as I have, and to be approached by Nike to help out with the INEOS 1:59 challenge is a huge honour.

I was also fortunate to be a pacemaker for Breaking2 in Monza in 2017. 

Breaking2 was a huge event and I completed two 3km stints of pacemaking. To witness what Eliud achieved that day by running 2:00:25 was unbelievable. To have contributed in some small way to him achieving that was very special.

It was amazing to be a part of an event of that magnitude and to be involved in something similar with the INEOS 1:59 Challenge is very cool. To help Eliud achieve his dreams, a guy who had never really changed that much over the years, is a real privilege.

I’m now aged 44, not the youngest, and many of the pacemakers are capable of running much faster than me. I see my role as similar to Monza where I can communicate my thoughts and ideas to the rest of the pacemakers. I helped put the guys at ease with simple, clear, precise instructions, which the guys were able to understand and grasp. 

The INEOS 1:59 Challenge has a different feel to it compared to Breaking2. I think this is because prior to Breaking2, Eliud had never previously been tested to that degree before. However, I know he would have learned so much from running 2:00:25.

Also since Breaking2 he has been able to run a world marathon record of 2:01:39. That performance in Berlin was something quite special. He didn’t just break the record by a few seconds but a huge margin. The way he came back to run that course record in London and the second fastest official marathon time in his career also shows how strong he is.

I am confident that on the day he can break two hours. Of course, many factors have to go his way. The weather conditions need to be ideal in Vienna and has to hope his body does not have an off day and that it responds positively.

Yet if anyone can do it, Eliud can. Mentally he is such a tough athlete and I look forward to playing my small part in helping my fellow Nandi and near neighbour create history.


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