Eliud Kipchoge

AP

Eliud Kipchoge announces special sub-2-hour marathon bid (again)

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OXFORD, England (AP) — Eliud Kipchoge has funding from Britain’s richest man for his bid to break the two-hour marathon barrier again later this year.

The fastest marathon runner of all time announced plans for the record attempt during a visit to the track in Oxford where Roger Bannister ran the first sub-four-minute mile 65 years ago on Monday.

“I want to unlock that thought that there are limitations in the human being,” Kipchoge told The Associated Press at the Iffley Road track. “There are no barriers when you believe in yourself and try and trust in what you are doing.”

The 34-year-old Olympic champion has gained the trust of Jim Ratcliffe, who founded chemicals group INEOS and is estimated by London-based Sunday Times Rich List to be worth 21 billion pounds ($28 billion).

Ratcliffe spent the London Marathon earlier this month in the pace car watching Kipchoge win the event for a record fourth time.

London is where Ratcliffe hopes the Kenyan runner will in September or October be lowering his world record marathon time of 2 hours, 1 minute, 39 seconds — set in Berlin in September — to under two hours.

Kipchoge made an attempt at the Monza motor racing circuit in Italy in May 2017, falling 26 seconds short across 26.2 miles (42.2 kilometers) around an oval track in a time not sanctioned by the IAAF, because of variables such as pacers entering mid-race and drinks being given to runners via mopeds.

This time a parklands circuit could be favored over a road circuit because Ratcliffe anticipates needing dates in London on three consecutive weekends being set aside to ensure the conditions are optimal for Kipchoge.

“If we have it in London it would need to be an iconic location that fulfils the performance criteria that’s flat and has a good surface,” Ratcliffe said after posing with Kipchoge in front of a clock that read “1:59.00.”

According to Ratciffle’s vision, the ideal situation for the attempt would involve a circuit of 2 to 3 kilometers, and a crowd.

“It’s one of those great challenges in the sporting world to try and break two hours,” for the marathon, Ratcliffe told the AP. “If he does succeed it’ll be very inspirational for people. He’s the finest marathon runner the world has ever produced and I think he’s still getting better.”

This is the latest foray into sports for Ratcliffe, who has taken over the Team Sky cycling outfit and renamed it after INEOS.

“We worked for 25-30 years in business and it’s quite successful,” Ratcliffe said. “We can afford to do this and why shouldn’t we really? We’re putting a modest amount in our terms into sport. I think they are good endeavors. We enjoy it and we can.”

There is also a risk. Ratcliffe said he has conducted due diligence into the athletes he is now funding in cycling and athletics — two sports that have grappled with doping issues.

“We probe quite deeply into that,” Ratcliffe said. “I have no interest in cheating.”

Neither does Kipchoge.

“This is the time to prove to the whole world that you can run in a positive way,” Kipchoge said, “and in a clean way and actually make history.”

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MORE: U.S. marathon rankings ahead of Olympic trials

Eliud Kipchoge wins London Marathon in second-fastest time ever

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Eliud Kipchoge repeatedly motioned for his so-called challengers to share the work at the front of the London Marathon. None dared.

So the 34-year-old Kenyan cranked up the pace and smiled en route to the second-fastest marathon in history, padding his argument as the greatest of all time on Sunday.

Kipchoge clocked 2:02:37, trailing only his world record 2:01:39 set in Berlin on Sept. 16. It’s his record-extending 10th straight elite marathon win and record-breaking fourth title in London, routinely featuring the toughest fields of the spring marathon season.

“It feels strange to be considered the most successful elite man in racing,” Kipchoge said, according to race organizers. “It was a very tactical race as everyone was there, but I know how to win this race, and I was confident and didn’t feel it was in doubt at any point.”

Kipchoge ran away from Ethiopians Mosinet Geremew and Mule Wasihun in the last two miles, beating them by 18 and 39 seconds, respectively. Four-time Olympic track champion Mo Farah was fifth in what he called a disappointing 2:05:39.

Kenyan Brigid Kosgei became the youngest woman to win London in 2:18:20, upsetting countrywomen Vivian Cheruiyot (second, 2:20:14) and Mary Keitany (fifth, 2:20:58).

MORE: London Marathon Results

Kipchoge is inching closer to doubling the win streaks of history’s other legendary marathoners. Ethiopians Abebe Bikila and Haile Gebrselassie each won six straight, according to Tilastopaja.org. Bikila has one accolade that Kipchoge does not — back-to-back Olympic titles — which Kipchoge can rectify in Tokyo next year.

Kosgei, a 25-year-old mom, was second to Cheruiyot in London last year, then won October’s Chicago Marathon for her first major crown. On Sunday, she posted the fastest second half of a women’s marathon in history (66:42) to become the seventh-fastest woman in history.

Emily Sisson was sixth in 2:23:08, the second-fastest debut marathon in U.S. women’s history.

“We wanted to run faster, ideally, but given the conditions and the way the race went out, I think that was a good performance,” Sisson told media, noting the relatively slow early pace and a windy second half. “There’s a lot of room for improvement.”

Two-time U.S. Olympian Molly Huddle took 12th in 2:26:33, a personal best by 11 seconds, but a disappointing one.

“I felt rough from, like, 10K on, like my legs were just really achy today,” Huddle told LetsRun.com. “Sometimes you have bad days in the marathon.”

Sisson and Huddle are among a large group of U.S. Olympic hopefuls, also including Jordan HasayDes LindenAmy Cragg and, should she continue racing, Shalane Flanagan. The top three at trials in Atlanta on Feb. 29 are in line to make the Tokyo team.

In Sunday’s wheelchair divisions, American Daniel Romanchuk added his first London title to Chicago, New York City and Boston crowns in the last year. The 21-year-old pulled away from Swiss Marcel Hug in the last half-mile and won by four seconds in 1:33:38.

Swiss Manuela Schar earned her second London title in 1:44:09, distancing American Tatyana McFadden by 5:33.

London marked the final major marathon of the spring. The fall season begins in Berlin on Sept. 29.

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MORE: 2019 Boston Marathon Results

Eliud Kipchoge brings record streak to London Marathon; Mo Farah plays the feud

Eliud Kipchoge, Mo Farah
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Mo Farah already clashed with one marathon legend this week. He hopes to create another contest Sunday, but that will be much more difficult on the roads of the British capital.

The build-up to the London Marathon has hardly been singularly about Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge, the greatest marathoner in history and overwhelming favorite to win his 10th straight 26.2-miler (TV/stream schedule here).

Instead the focus fell on Farah and his feud with former world-record holder Haile Gebrselassie.

And while nobody is in Kipchoge’s tier at the moment, race organizers still pitted him head-to-head with the hometown star Farah, boxing weigh-in style, for a photo opp before they shared a stage for Wednesday’s pre-race press conference.

Farah, wearing a bib reading “Sir Mo,” was then asked if it’s fair for the British public to expect him to win given his track record of success (that has started to translate on the roads in three marathons, winning his last time out in Chicago on Oct. 7).

“That’s where they’re used to, why not?” he said. “I don’t line up and go, I’m going to try to finish third or fourth.”

Last year, Farah, a four-time Olympic champion between 5000m and 10,000m, lined up for his first marathons since switching full-time to road racing. He took third in London, 124 seconds behind Kipchoge.

Three weeks after Kipchoge smashed the world record in Berlin — 2:01:39 — Farah lowered his personal best to 2:05:11 in winning Chicago. Both courses are flat, though Berlin is, like Kipchoge, in a class of its own for fast conditions.

MORE: U.S. women add intrigue to London Marathon

“I believe I could have gone a little bit faster,” Farah said. “It wasn’t about time. It was about winning. … I’m a lot more stronger [than at London 2018].”

He’ll need to be against a fit Kipchoge.

Kipchoge, at 34, is a year and a half younger than Farah but with nearly three times the marathon experience. While Farah has yet to break 2:05 in the marathon, Kipchoge has gone 2:05 or better in 10 of his last 11 marathons (including the Breaking 2 event, with the outlier being the Rio Olympics, where he won by a whopping 70 seconds in tough conditions).

There are other strong racers in Sunday’s field, led by Ethiopian Shura Kitata, who finished between Kipchoge and Farah last year and added a New York City runner-up. And the women’s race is deeper with three of the seven fastest in history, plus the best U.S. contingent in London in a decade.

“Eventually, Kipchoge’s going to lose a marathon,” NBC Sports analyst Josh Cox said. “Is this the time he starts losing? No.”

There’s little for Kipchoge to accomplish Sunday that would cause shock waves. The world record would be in play if Kipchoge hadn’t lowered it 78 seconds in Berlin. At this point, a course record or the fact that he’s trying to become the first man to win four London titles would be ho-hum feats.

“That world record was the last missing piece for him,” Cox said. “He’s done everything to prove he’s the greatest of all time. Now it’s about the legacy.”

Forget about fastest times in history. None of the other greats in modern marathons had a stretch like this. Abebe Bikila and Gebrselassie each won six straight, according to Tilastopaja.org.

If Kipchoge is chasing anything the rest of his career, it might be another try at breaking two hours in a staged, non-record-eligible setting like two years ago. He ran 2:00:25 on a race track in Italy.

“Those 25 seconds which he missed in Monza,” agent Valentijn Trouw said, according to LetsRun.com, “that goes sometimes through his mind.”

Kipchoge will continue to race as long as he loves the sport. As long as he enjoys the grind of austere training with his chore-sharing group in Kaptagat, where he scrubs the toilets just like everyone else. He could eventually go for wins in Boston or New York City, major marathons he has yet to enter. There’s also the Tokyo Olympics, where Kipchoge can become the third person to repeat as marathon gold medalist.

For now the onus is on London, even if the focus this week has been on two other distance greats.

“I am confident that I will run well on Sunday,” Kipchoge told media on Wednesday. “I am confident that I will win.”

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