Kenyan world record holder Eliud Kipchoge is to make another attempt at breaking two hours for the marathon later this year, probably in Britain, in a project backed by Jim Ratcliffe, the billionaire owner of chemical firm INEOS.
Kipchoge ran two hours and 25 seconds in his “Breaking Two” project on Italy’s Monza motor racing circuit in 2017, though the time was not ratified for record purposes as he used “in and out” pacemakers and a moving drinks station.
Last year he lowered the legal world record by an astonishing 78 seconds when posting 2:01.39 in Berlin and last week ran the second-fastest time in history when winning the London marathon in 2:02.37.
With an Olympic marathon gold and an amazing record of 11 wins from 12 races over the 26.2 mile distance, breaking two hours would appear to be the only thing missing from the CV of a man ranked among the greatest his sport has seen.
“This would really surpass everything because this will go in the history as far as the human family is concerned,” Kipchoge said when announcing the bid at the Iffley Road running track in Oxford where Briton Roger Bannister became the first man to break four minutes for the mile 65 years ago on Monday.
“It is not about recognition or ratification but to make history and to pass on a message that no human is limited. Running the fastest-ever marathon of 2:00.25 was the proudest moment of my career.”
There are still many details to be ironed out for the new attempt, labelled “The 1.59 Challenge” though it is likely to be in September or October on a two or three-km circuit course, probably in Britain and possibly in one of London’s Royal parks.
It will again be un-ratified as the Kenyan will use a phalanx of pacemakers who run a number of laps, dipping in and out so that they can maintain the phenomenal two minute, 50 seconds per km pace necessary.
Although Nike is not spearheading the attempt as it did in Monza, Kipchoge, 34, will again wear their somewhat controversial carbon-insoled Vaporfly shoes that Nike says improve running economy by up to four percent.
The shoes have been passed legal by the sport’s governing body the IAAF, though some critics say they give such an advantage that without them Kipchoge would be a “routine” 2.03/04 performer.
The shoes, pacemakers, apparel, wind-blocking paceclock car and rolling drinks stations helped take Kipchoge agonisingly close in Monza and he says the lessons learnt then will make him even more likely to pull off a feat that would undoubtedly rank at the very top of human sporting achievement.
Most importantly, Kipchoge said, has been a change in mentality as, having come so close there and subsequently massively improved his best legal time, he now fully believes he is capable of maintaining the necessary pace.
Ratcliffe, 66 and a keen runner for decades, said that the missing link could be a crowd to watch and encourage, after the Monza attempt took place in front of a handful of media, sponsors and associates.
“If Eliud has got a fantastic crowd cheering him on, it’s going to make a bit of difference and we don’t need to make a lot of difference to make up 26 seconds,” he said.
“I was in the pace car in front of Eliud for the London Marathon and he was looking very serene and comfortable. He’s still getting better.”
Ratcliffe has taken over ownership of cycling’s former Team Sky, funded Ben Ainslie’s 2021 America’s Cup sailing challenge and owns Swiss soccer club Lausanne Sport.
“It’s good fun. We make billions in profits so what’s wrong with investing a bit of that in sport, in good challenges, good people?,” he said.
Bach boxing comments undervalue International Federations - AIBA chief
The executive director of AIBA, the governing body of amateur boxing, has hit out at Olympic chief Thomas Bach for suggesting putting together an alternative organisation to run the sport at next year's Tokyo Games would "not be rocket science".
AIBA faces expulsion from the Olympic movement after an inquiry into its finances and governance reports at the end of the month, potentially leaving in limbo the boxing competition at the 2020 Summer Games.
International Olympic Committee President Bach said on Saturday that alternative arrangements could be put in place to ensure boxing retained its spot at the Games and made light of concerns about the lack of time available to do so.
"I heard Mr Bach's comment and it was very concerning because it certainly minimised what work goes into the preparation for such monumental event," Tom Virgets told Reuters by telephone on Monday.
"That wasn't just minimising us, that was minimising every IF (International Federation).
"I would certainly hope that was just a bad choice of words, I hope he is not that far removed from the work of Olympic programmes that he actually believes that.
"The Olympics needs IFs and we should not forget that."
While the IOC organises the Olympic Games as a whole, the federations, who are gathering this week on Australia's Gold Coast for their annual Sportaccord summit, run their own sports competitions within that framework.
Expulsion from the IOC when the inquiry reports to the executive board on May 22 would rob AIBA of its main source of funding and be a devastating blow to the body which has organised Olympic boxing for 73 years.
Reports in Europe at the weekend said AIBA interim president Mohamed Moustahsane was proposing a vote of the executive committee on taking legal action and making formal complaints against some IOC members should the decision go against them.
"When you are faced with a significant issue like this, it would be irresponsible if the executive committee was not taking a look at all of its options and making a determination of what was in the best interests of the organisation," Virgets added.
"To me, this should not be looked as AIBA being defiant, no! AIBA is practising proper and good governance. Isn't this what we're supposed to do?"
Moustahsane took charge in March when Gafur Rahimov suspended himself from the post because of his presence on a U.S. Treasury Department sanctions list 'for providing material support' to a criminal organisation.
The Uzbek strongly denies the allegations.
Virgets does not shy away from the fact that AIBA was an 'absolute mess' before a reform process commenced 18 months ago but he believes the IOC inquiry lacks 'due process' and risked producing a 'one-sided, biased report'.
The American believes AIBA have done everything asked of them by the IOC to sort out the problems that bedevilled the organisation and are willing to do more if shortcomings are pointed out to them.
AIBA will have a chance to give verbal testimony to the inquiry in addition to the 7,000 pages of documents they have already submitted, but Virgets believes there will not be enough time to sufficiently inform the IOC's decision.
"We will have approximately two hours to address all the concerns of this inquiry committee and then, less than 36 hours later, they give a report," he said.
"Considering the monumental decision, shouldn't we be given more time to talk? And shouldn't the executive board have an opportunity to address AIBA to give us an opportunity to rebut?
"We just find this inappropriate."