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26th July 2019

Valentijn Trouw on Eliud Kipchoge and the INEOS 1:59 Challenge

Valentijn Trouw is an athlete representative and elite athlete coordinator for Global Sports Communication, specialising in managing Kenyan and Ethiopian athletes. He has helped build the careers of Olympic and World Championship medallists Eliud Kipchoge, Tsegaye Kebede, Faith Kipyegon, Geoffrey Kamworor among others.  

I have worked with Eliud for many years and been with him for most of the ups and downs of his career. Of course, with Eliud, the ups have far outweighed the downs, especially since he made the move to marathon running. His record of 12 wins in 13 marathons is just amazing.

When we sat down with Eliud at the start of the year to map out his plans for the next 12 to 18 months it was very clear that breaking two hours was very important to him. He went so close to doing that at the Nike Breaking2 event and it has been in his heart ever since.

To have a successful and long-lasting relationship with an athlete, a manager needs to stay as close as possible to the heart and the motivation of that athlete. And after many discussions with Eliud, it is clear his heart is set on running a marathon in under two hours. It became our job to make his dream come true and we started to look at how we could do this.

We spoke about Eliud’s goals at the Olympics in Tokyo next year and the preparations towards that, and how a sub-2 challenge could fit into his training and racing. With a very limited window to bring a sub-2 marathon challenge to life for Eliud INEOS have made this happen, and the timing is just right.

Breaking two hours really is an epic challenge. Eliud has thought and dreamed about doing it for years and years. His favourite phrase is “No Human is Limited” meaning that everyone can achieve more then what they think is possible. For Eliud, this is his chance to inspire people to do great things, even beyond sport, to challenge themselves in a way they may never have dared.

Valentijn Trouw with Eliud Kipchoge and Patrick Sang at the launch of the INEOS 1:59 Challenge. Credit: Dan Vernon

"Breaking two hours really is an epic challenge. Eliud has thought and dreamed about doing it for years and years. His favourite phrase is “No Human is Limited” meaning that everyone can achieve more then what they think is possible. For Eliud, this is his chance to inspire people to do great things, even beyond sport, to challenge themselves in a way they may never have dared."

The main challenge for me and the Performance team from now until the day of the event is to keep Eliud fit and healthy, and the key to this is prevention rather than cure. We need to act on any small problems before they become big problems. This is where we need to be really sharp.

Eliud is an extremely serious and hardworking athlete and he is in very safe hands with his coach Patrick Sang, so we don’t need to do too much on the training side. But we do need to make sure the entire Performance team – coach, physiotherapist, nutritionist, sports doctor and management team – are all facing the same direction and working together. If we can get Eliud to the Start Line without any injury and illness then we are almost there.

When it comes to the actual days before the event, my main role will be to keep all side issues and possible distractions away from Eliud so he can have total focus on his daily routine and prepare himself in a calm and quiet environment for the task ahead. 

He will be nervous leading up to the event, of course he will. But by thinking about the preparation he has done in the lead-up to the challenge and by realising he has given his all to prepare to the best of his ability, Eliud will be able to control his nerves. 

It won’t just be Eliud who will be nervous, however. The whole of our team will be nervous, knowing just how hard he has worked in his attempt to break this historical barrier. It means so much to all of us, too.

But I believe he can do it – I really do. To succeed, an athlete needs to believe it is possible and when I look at Eliud and look into his heart, I see that belief inside of him. So it is Eliud’s conviction that makes me convinced that history can be made.

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