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30th May 2019
Over the coming months I plan to share my story on my journey to the INEOS 1:59 Challenge – where I hope to create history and become the first human to run under two hours for the marathon.
Yet before I look ahead, I’d first like to reflect on my most recent performance, where I won the London Marathon (in 2:02:37). I was pleased with my performance for several reasons. Firstly, it was my first race since breaking the world record in Berlin last year, so it was important to race again to gauge fitness and show the world that the world record does not come on a silver platter. Secondly, I was really happy to run the second fastest marathon time in history and, thirdly, I was pleased to become the first man in history to win the London Marathon four times.
Following my win in London I experienced a crazy, busy week. On the Monday morning after the race I shot a video for INEOS and on the afternoon I met Sir Jim Ratcliffe, the owner of INEOS, and his employees at his offices. Later that day I travelled up to Oxford for the official INEOS 1:59 Challenge press conference which took place at Iffley Road on Tuesday – the same track where Roger Bannister became the first man to break the four-minute-mile barrier.
I first became aware of Roger Bannister in a conversation back in 2004 shortly after I set my mile PB of 3:50.40 in London. What he achieved was truly special, so it was inspirational to visit the track where on May 6, 1954 he had set the iconic mark. My hectic week then continued as I flew on to Berlin for some commitments with my sponsor, Nike, before I finally returned home.
It was exciting to spend time again with my wife and kids in Eldoret. My daughter, Lynne, said she was happy to have watched me run on TV. She said her teacher kept asking ‘how is Eliud? He’ll have to come and say hi to the other kids at school.’
My wife, Grace, was also really pleased to see me again. She had been the talk of the town because she was the one interviewed by many of the Kenyan press after my victory in London!
It was nice to be given the chance to rest at home with the family. I like to rest my mind by reading books, I’ve recently read a biography on the boxer Muhammad Ali and I’ve also spent time working on our farm – which is located around 10km away from Eldoret. It is only a small farm with crops and animals. It is always nice to get away and relax there.
Post-London, I’ve taken three weeks total rest, although when I do take a break I must admit I do miss running.
I’ve since started my early phase of training which includes gym work three times a week and jogging 18-20km three times a week on the days when I’m not at the gym.
My gym work entails weightlifting, some steps with weights, aerobics with an instructor and some other mobility exercises.
In my mind the gym work helps chase away the injuries and train the muscles. As an injury prevention tool the gym it is very important. My fitness is measured by my work in the gym.
Before returning to full training in camp the work I carry out in this phase is critical as it provides the foundation in terms for my preparation for the INEOS 1:59 Challenge.
I look forward to updating my story in the coming weeks.
21st June 2019
I am really excited to be involved in a second initiative focused on breaking the two-hour barrier for the marathon.
Back in 2017 - as part of the Nike Breaking2 Project - I tried my best and ran 2:00:25. I did not expect a second opportunity to come about this year, because such events take a long time to organise, but I am very grateful INEOS have put on this challenge. I believe it has come at the right time.
This is a golden chance for me to make history and show the world that no human is limited.
When I took on the Breaking2 project many people said a sub-two-hour marathon was impossible and I recall feeling that day like a boxer entering the ring; not quite sure what was going to happen. Yet to come within 26 seconds of the mark proved that a sub-two-hour marathon was possible. As I crossed the line that day I was happy and emotional.
I have since analysed the challenge and I believe because of my rich experiences in Monza (as part of the Breaking2 Project) I am in a much better position to run 26 seconds quicker and make history.
I have always had a strong belief that anything is possible and my confidence has grown over time. I am optimistic that with the right preparation and planning and by completing every long run, fartlek session and every track workout that I will be ready.
When I attempted Breaking2 my personal best was 2:03:05. Now my PB is the world record 2:01:39 and I have also run a 2:02:37. This gives me further belief that I can break two hours as part of the INEOS 1:59 Challenge.
I am lucky to have a great support team around me with Nike, Global Sports Communication, the NN Running Team and now, of course, INEOS. My job is simple; to prepare and reach the level of fitness needed to run a sub-two-hour marathon.
I’ve also received big support from the distance running community. Everyone has been positive and wished me luck. In my heart and mind I’ve analysed and visualised breaking two hours. I can’t wait for the challenge to come.
5th July 2019
Now I have completed my first phase of training – which included a mix of gym work, aerobics and jogging – for the INEOS 1:59 Challenge I’ve now transferred to my training camp in Kaptagat, Kenya for the next stage of my preparation.
It is always hard to have to say goodbye to my wife and three children. For the past two months I have spent time living at home with them in Eldoret. However, for the past 17 years of my career I have spent time in camp and they understand these are the sacrifices I need to make to fulfil my running potential.
Life must continue, and each weekend I will return from camp to spend time with them.
The main benefit of being in camp is it allows for a concentrated environment with no distractions. The other benefit is the teamwork, I enjoy being with my fellow NN Running Team athletes in camp. For me, running with others is so important. You can run alone, but I believe that you cannot do the same level of work. Unless you are a genius, I think it is impossible to train on your own and achieve the same level of results.
Coming back into the camp also has its compensations. It is always exciting to once again see the athletes and it is nice to hear their stories and jokes after two months apart.
My body responded well to the first phase of training. Having said that; nothing can quite prepare you for the first few days again in camp when the body has to adjust to the demands of going for a long run and the speed sessions again. The legs are sore and the muscles ache.
At the moment we are completing a mixture of gym week, easier runs, two fartlek sessions a week and a long run. In the coming weeks we will re-introduce the faster track work outs. It is important to get this stage right, so that when we face the next intensive stage of training we will be able to cope with the extra training load much more comfortably. If we don’t come through this stage of the preparation there will be big problems during the track sessions and on the long runs you will really suffer.
Recently, I have also found out the location and course for the INEOS 1:59 Challenge. As you may have read the course will be in Vienna, Austria. My belief is that the location and course is perfect. The weather is likely to be good. The city is one that loves sport and the course is flat and straight. I have never been to Vienna but I am looking forward to racing there, but first I have to continue to focus on my daily preparation and take things day by day in my pursuit of an historic sub-two-hour marathon.
19th July 2019
“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once was despair” – Nelson Mandela
This is one of my favourite quotes, and it hangs on a poster by my bed at my training camp in Kaptagat as motivation. It acts as a reminder of what I am trying to achieve as part of the INEOS 1:59 Challenge; in that this is not just about myself but it is about inspiring others and instilling in people a belief that nothing is impossible.
In terms of my training, the body feels good, the loading phase is going well and I’m looking forward to the weekly track sessions to be introduced into the programme shortly.
As I explained in my previous diary post, this period of training is all about preparing the body for the next more intensive training phase. My job is simply to make sure I finish each training session in a good time and a good way and I’ve been pleased with how my training has progressed.
The challenge is still some months away and I am confident that not only my physical preparation but my mental preparation is on track.
Ahead of the 5000m final at the 2003 World Championships in Paris, Patrick told me to treat myself as the best athlete. At those championships I beat Kenenisa Bekele and Hicham El Guerrouj, two legends of the sport, to win gold and from that day on I’ve always entered any race believing I will achieve my goals. Nothing has changed over the past 16 years and the INEOS 1:59 Challenge is no different.
I guess the feeling I have is a little like a successful lawyer entering court in that he believes in his heart he has done the best preparation possible and he walks into the building thinking he is a winner.
Life in the camp is going well. I share a room with my good friend Augustine Choge, who will be one of the pacemakers as part of the INEOS 1:59 Challenge. It is nice to know somebody I have shared a close friendship with for the past 15 years will be helping me in my challenge. Some of the other guys in camp will also be working as pacemakers and their enthusiasm for the project is nice to see and motivates me further.
In fact, it is not just the guys in camp who are excited for the challenge. Driving out and about in Kaptagat and Eldoret I’ve seen many people with INEOS 1:59 stickers on their cars as the whole of Kenya is seemingly getting behind the project. This is inspiring to see.
While the fundamental training programme is the same for the INEOS 1:59 Challenge as it was for Breaking2 (in 2017) there are some differences - one of which is the introduction of two exercise workouts a week to strengthen my core stability.
My long-time physio and good friend, Peter, introduced them in the countdown to the 2018 Berlin Marathon and I really feel the benefit. I now feel less strain on the hamstrings and with a stronger core this makes myself and the other athletes in the camp less vulnerable for injuries.
In many respects, however, there is nothing overly complicated about my training regime. There is certain simplicity to what I do and I’m confident that this will prove the recipe to success in Vienna.
2nd August 2019
We are now two-and-a-half months away from the INEOS 1:59 Challenge and over the past two weeks - with the introduction of track sessions into the programme - we’ve entered a critical training phase.
As many of you will know; I’m a former track athlete. However, since stepping up to the marathon I have always continued to train on a hard-packed dirt 400m track in Eldoret.
The track sessions, which we carry out every Tuesday, are a great gauge for my current fitness levels. It also enables the body to become accustomed to running at a fast pace – which will be of paramount importance in my attempt to run a sub-two-hour marathon.
It is always a nice feeling to return to the track. The sessions went well but most importantly my body responded positively, which gives me confidence everything is on the right track.
In many respects, now the track sessions have been re-introduced into the programme, this is my most intense training period in the countdown to the Challenge.
Recovery from the hard training is also of vital importance. As I mentioned in my previous diary entry, I now carry out twice weekly core stability exercises.
Besides this, I also have three physio/massage sessions a week with Peter, my long-term physiotherapist. Meanwhile, twice a week - typically after the Thursday long run and after the fartlek session on a Saturday - I’ll also have a ten-minute ice bath in the camp. While the ice bath is not particularly pleasant, it is great way for the body to recover from a hard work out and to reduce inflammation.
Another important element to the training at the moment is the work I’m doing with a couple of the INEOS 1:59 pacemakers, who are based here in camp with me; my room-mate and long-time friend Augustine Choge and Victor Chumo.
The pacemakers will play a vital role on the day in terms of not only setting an even, constant pace but also protecting me from the wind.
Both Augustine and Victor are very aware of what we are trying to achieve and are keen to play their part in history. During some of the track and fartlek sessions they have practised pacing me, which has acted as a bit of a rehearsal.
The work we’ve done together has improved our co-ordination together and will certainly form a critical component of my bid to run a sub-two-hour marathon.
16th August 2019
As time is ticking and the INEOS 1:59 Challenge approaches ever nearer there is a buzz and anticipation building. I can feel the energy building. The athletes in camp are excited and I too am excited; everyone is waiting for the day.
You can see by the fact many people are driving their cars in Kaptagat and Eldoret with INEOS 1:59 stickers that the general public are also eagerly awaiting the day. It is like every household in Kenya is talking about the Challenge.
There is a lot of expectation around the event. There is a lot of pressure and it is not easy to handle. But I have been here before as part of the Nike Breaking2 Project. I know what I am doing and the best way for me to cope with the expectation is to keep things simple and normal. To take things day by day.
My mental preparation for taking on such as challenge is just as important as my physical preparation. This will be important over the next two months, where I need to internalise in my heart and my mind that I can run a sub-two-hour marathon. I need to talk to myself that this is possible.
It is also important to be in a continually relaxed environment. I’m fortunate that for the past 17 years of my career the Global Sports Communication camp in Kaptagat provides that setting.
I share a room with my good friend, Augustine Choge, who will be one of the pacemakers. It is nice to be around someone of a similar mindset. We don’t talk about the project continually, but it is in our mind and in our hearts that we can achieve this goal.
When I return to my family home in Eldoret, I also know I can relax and that I have the love and support of my wife, Grace, and three children.
My downtime is important. On a weekend I like to spend time on my farm while at the end of each day I like to read a book. As some of you may know; I’m a big fan of Formula One and I’m currently reading a book on the history of the sport and how it was founded.
I have to remember much of what I’m going through at the moment with the INEOS 1:59 Challenge, I also experienced during the build-up to Breaking2. However, I now have the additional benefit of the knowledge I gained from Monza, which I’m sure will serve me well in Vienna in October.
30th August 2019
At this stage of my preparation, it is important that the body responds positively and I’m happy to report that this is definitely the case.
In an Instagram post, I commented after a recent long run I had “witnessed lots of progression.” The run was enjoyable run, which I completed at around 60 per cent effort.
My breathing felt good, my muscles were both strong and relaxed and my legs were moving in an extremely good way. To me, this is positive for the future and I hope to maintain that same feeling over the next six weeks before the INEOS 1:59 Challenge.
Some people have asked how my preparation is tracking compared to the build-up to previous marathons, but I cannot compare. Every marathon has a unique preparation and the goal at the end of this race is quite different to a typical race.
A critical element in Vienna will be the role of the pacemakers. Two of my training partners, Victor Chumo and Augustine Choge, have been assigned with that role and we have practised in track sessions for them to take the lead ahead of me to replicate what will happen in Austria.
This is very helpful because it is important that running with the pacemakers feels smooth and that my legs are moving with them at the same speed and rhythm.
I’m also delighted former Olympic 1500m silver medallist and 2007 world 1500m and 5000m champion Bernard Lagat has been named as one the pacemakers. Bernard competes for America but he grew up in a neighbouring village to me in Kenya and we know each other well. He has huge experience from his time running track at a world-class level and today runs marathons. Bernard will be important as a guide to the other pacers, who will benefit from his great knowledge of the sport.
The list of pacemakers that have so far been announced is hugely impressive. We have the Ingebrigtsen brothers from Norway, who are achieving some amazing results on the world stage. Meanwhile, other guys like world and Olympic 5000m medallist Paul Chelimo and my fellow NN Running Team athlete and European half marathon record-holder Julien Wanders have also committed to help out.
It is a huge morale boost for me to have these guys and many others by my side. It gives me great heart, and I fully appreciate that they have accepted a pacemaking role in Vienna. My hope is that they will scoop the medals at the Doha World Championships before going on to play their part in history for the INEOS 1:59 Challenge.
I’ve recently also spent time with my nutritionist, Armand Bettonviel, here at my training camp in Kaptagat. Nutrition will be another critical race day component. We've practised in training the nutritional intake I require during the record attempt. We are taking great care on getting this right.
Outside of life in the training camp, I can feel the enthusiasm and passion that my fellow Kenyans have for the challenge. From the capital city of Nairobi to Eldoret about 300km away I see INEOS 1:59 Challenge stickers on cars, buses and houses. Everywhere I go people want a piece of 1:59 and I’m sure the whole country will be glued to their TV screens to watch the race in October.
I feel such a large percentage of the global athletics community is so positive about what I’m trying to achieve and that is a great feeling.
My hope is that they can witness history being made and that I can help inspire them.
13th September 2019
The phrase ‘No Human Is Limited’ is something which first came to me in the countdown to the Breaking2 Project in Monza. At that time myself and two other athletes were attempting what many thought unthinkable – a sub-two-hour marathon. Personally, I’ve never believed in limits and that is how the phrase came about.
For this reason, I’m happy and excited the #NoHumanIsLimited campaign has been launched through the INEOS 1:59 Challenge to help inspire others to overcome their own personal barriers.
Among those inspirational ambassadors who represent the #NoHumanIsLimited philosophy include Dutch marathon runner Abdi Nageeye and four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome.
I personally nominated Abdi as an ambassador for the campaign. I know him well as he trains with our group in Kaptagat. Abdi is a Dutch athlete, who proves European athletes can run very quickly. He set a Dutch marathon record of 2:06:17 in Rotterdam in April and I believe he can go much quicker in the future.
He was also a pacemaker in Monza as part of Breaking2 – and is a believer that no human is limited. Watching Abdi grow and grow throughout his career has been a big inspiration for me.
I’ve also met another of the #NoHumanIsLimited ambassadors, Chris Froome. Chris was born and raised in Kenya and South Africa and proves that an African raised athlete can excel at cycling. In conversation with Chris he was excited about what I am attempting to do and I know that when I spoke with him he was confident he could have won this year’s Tour de France. Unfortunately, he later suffered a terrible accident and I wish him a good recovery. For me, Chris is a true #NoHumanIsLimited ambassador.
He has the same mentality as me. He doesn’t believe in limits and challenges himself every day.
The project #NoHumanIsLimited is in my blood and in my heart. I live this belief each day when I wake up and train in preparation for the INEOS 1:59 Challenge. I believe I can go beyond what other people think and I am happy to share this message and take it to the next level.
I know on the day of the INEOS 1:59 Challenge such thoughts will help push me to history.
I hope my feats can inspire billions of people worldwide to follow their dreams and prove that no human is limited.
4th October 2019
For my final diary piece I thought I would offer an insight into what I expect my race week will look like for the INEOS 1:59 Challenge.
As those of you who have read my past diary entries will be aware, my preparation, in many respects, is exactly the same for the INEOS 1:59 Challenge as it is for any marathon.
However, there are a few differences, not least because in Vienna I’m not necessarily racing on a set day. For a typical competition, whether that is a London Marathon or Berlin Marathon or indeed an Olympic Games, I know many months in advance the particular date I will racing on.
But due to organisers of the INEOS 1:59 Challenge putting in place an eight-day window from October 12-20 to give me the option to compete in the best possible conditions, I will need to have a flexible mindset, while also preparing as if I am competing on October 12.
Unlike a Berlin or a London – cities I know well from regularly competing in their great marathons – I will also have to quickly overcome my unfamiliarity with either the city of Vienna of the course for the INEOS 1:59 Challenge.
I am excited to compete in Vienna – it is both a beautiful city and a sporting city – but I have not been to Vienna. So, it will certainly take me a day or so to get used to a new city, a new hotel and my new surroundings, although I am not expecting this will take long.
Top of my bucket list in Vienna will be to check out the race course. I have seen pictures and a video of the course, but it will good to jog on it to get a feel for the start area, finish, and the roundabouts on the course.
I will probably only need to jog the course once or twice, but it is important to store information in my mind.
Perhaps the only other difference between the INEOS 1:59 Challenge and other marathons is that I am competing purely by myself against the clock. Even when competing in Breaking2, I was up against two other competitors. However, as I know so many of the pacemakers and with the support I will be given from the organisers, sponsors, and technical and coaching team, I am not alone. Everybody is doing their best to help me make history.
In all other respects, the INEOS 1:59 Challenge will be no different to other marathons. I will concentrate on receiving the right massage and physio, the best nutrition and I will try to rest as much as possible during race week.
As for sleep on the night before the race? Well, I did not sleep a wink before Breaking2 but I hope this time to grab a few hours sleep before the big race.
Oh, and I will also have four special people in Vienna following my progress; my wife Grace, and children, Lynne, Griffin and Gordon. It will be the first time they’ve ever watched me race, but I desperately want them to be in Vienna to see history being made.
Thank you for reading my diary pieces.
As told to Steve Landells
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