Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge produced the fastest ever time for the marathon distance at the Breaking2 race in Monza, Italy, running 2:00:25* on Saturday (6).
Held on a race track at 5:45am local time, Kipchoge lined up alongside half marathon world record-holder Zersenay Tadese of Eritrea and 2013 world silver medallist Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia to try to become the first men to cover 26.2 miles within two hours.
With a target pace of 14:13 for each 5km segment, the trio passed through the first five kilometres in 14:14 and reached 10km in 28:21. Desisa started to drop off the pace about 50 minutes into the race, leaving Kipchoge and Tadese to reach the half-way point in 59:57.
Tadese wasn’t able to maintain the pace for much longer, but Kipchoge soldiered on. His times at 30km (1:25:20) and 35km (1:39:37) suggested he was slipping outside the target pace but that a sub-two-hour finish may still be possible. But his 40km split of 1:54:00 all but confirmed that it would take a huge final effort to finish within two hours.
Cheered on by the final group of pace makers, Kipchoge used whatever energy he had left to drive for the line, eventually stopping the clock at 2:00:25.
“My mind was fully on finishing within two hours, but on the last lap I lost 10 seconds and the time escaped,” said Kipchoge. “It has been hard, it has taken seven good months of preparation and dedication. This journey has been a long challenge, but I’m a happy man to run a marathon in two hours.
“We are now just 25 seconds away,” he added. “I believe in good preparation and good planning. With that, these 25 seconds will go. I hope next time people believe it is possible.”
Tadese crossed the line several minutes later in 2:06:51 while Desisa followed in 2:14:10.
Years of planning had gone into the race where precise strategies for pacing and hydration had been put in place with the simple goal of covering the distance as fast as humanly possible.
*Some of the measures mean that times achieved in the race may not be eligible for official world record ratification should an application be made.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF