In the better part of the morning of Saturday, 12th October 2019, all eyes were glued to the screens. Many wanted to witness history in the making. The much-awaited INEOS 1:59 challenge at the Prater Park in Vienna, Austria, was finally happening. Kenyan World Olympic Champion, Eliud Kipchoge, brought activities in his home country to a standstill. Millions of Kenyans gathered at various points to watch the champion beat his record.
What everyone hoped for happened as Kipchoge indeed made history in Vienna. He is now the first human being to run a distance of 42km in less than 2 hours. The 34-year-old made it to the finish line after 1 hour 59 minutes and 40 seconds, making him the man of the day. This has earned him a spot in the Guinness World of Record.
IAAF, the world athletics governing body, will, however, not recognize this as the new world marathon record for various reasons. The first one is the presence of the pacemakers who assisted him in achieving the milestone. They were from different parts of the world, 15 of them being from Kenya. The second reason is the fact that Kipchoge had no competitors. There are several other reasons.
The pacemakers ran in groups of seven, five in front of him in a ‘V’ formation and two behind him. This was to dictate the pace for him while also protecting him from the wind. After crossing the finish line, Kipchoge credited the pacemakers saying they had been part of the history.
It was amazing to see how much Kenyans supported him in his bid to make history. Back at home, people gathered at Kapsisiywa Primary school in his village, where there was a big screen to watch the marathon. There was another gathering of thousands of people in the streets of Eldoret and yet another one at the KICC in Kenya’s capital.
Just hours before the marathon, Kenya’s tallest building KICC displayed photos of the iconic marathon runner on its walls. Safaricom, the most profitable company in East and Central Africa, also supported Kipchoge. They changed the logo of the world-famous mobile money operation platform M-Pesa. The logo had the name ‘Eliud’ on it with the numbers ‘1:59’ for seven days to honor Kipchoge.
The company also made it possible for the public to send messages to Kipchoge, wishing him well ahead of the marathon through the number ‘159’. On the day of the marathon, Safaricom gave its customers free data bundles for them to watch the live streaming through YouTube.
Several other Kenyans showed their support by flying to Vienna to watch and cheer up the champion. Prominent Kenyan leaders such as the Deputy President and Governors also attended the event. Kipchoge’s wife and children, for the first time, were present to witness their loved one run a marathon.
The INEOS 1:59 challenge was Kipchoge’s second attempt to run a sub-two-hour marathon. He made his first attempt at an event dubbed ‘Breaking2’ in Monza, Italy. He completed the marathon in 2 hours and 25 seconds, missing his target with 26 seconds.