Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge first to break 2-hour marathon barrier

Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge became the first person to break the 2-hour marathon barrier, running the 26.2-mile race in the Austrian capital of Vienna on Saturday.

Eliud Kipchoge celebrates with the flag of Kenya in front of the finish line after breaking the 2-hour marathon barrier in the Ineos 1:59 Challenge in Vienna, Austria, on Saturday. Photo by Christian Bruna

Kipchog, 34, shaved 45 seconds off his previous best effort for a time of 1:59:40 in the Ineos 1:59 Challenge in Prater-Hauptallee Park.

The milestone won’t count as a world record by IAFF because the 6-mile course wasn’t an open event and he was accompanied by 36 pacemakers in alternating groups.

Kipchoge holds the official world record of 2:01:39 when he bettered the previous best by 78 seconds in Berlin last year.

On Saturday, Kipchoge completed the first half of the race in 59 minutes and 35 seconds.

He wasn’t accompanied by pacemakers in the final 500 meters. Kipchoge punched his chest twice as broke the tape of the finish line. He embraced his wife Grace and grabbed a Kenyan flag.

“That was the best moment of my life,” he said. “The pressure was very big on my shoulders. I got a phone call from the president of Kenya. I am the happiest man today.”

The marathon milestone was a symbolic barrier like the 4-minute mile broken by Roger Bannister.

“It has taken 65 years for a human to make history in sport after Roger Bannister made history in 1954,” Kipchoge said after the race. “I’m expecting more of the athletes in all of the world to run under 2 hours after today.”

“We can make this world a beautiful world and a peaceful world,” Kipchoge. “My wife and three children, I am happy for them to come and witness history.”

He was backed by petrochemical company Ineos in the attempt: “” target=”_blank”} called the 1:59 Challenge.

The course included long straights and were protected from the wind with high trees.

His first milestone attempt backed by Ineos occurred in 2017 in a closed run in Monza, Italy, but he fell short by 26 seconds.

Before the race, Kipchoge described the favorable conditions of the race, which included a car with a laser beam, which projected an ideal position on the road.

“The law of nature cannot allow all human beings to think together,” he said. “In breaking the 2-hour barrier, I want to open minds to think that no human is limited. All our minds, all our thoughts are parallel. But I respect everybody’s thoughts.”

In Kenya, his achievement was celebrated.

“Hearty congratulations, Eliud Kipchoge,” President Uhuru Kenyatta said in a statement posted on Twitter. “You’ve done it, you’ve made history and made Kenya proud. Your win today will inspire future generations to dream big and aspire to greatness. We celebrate you and wish you God’s blessings.

Kipchoge won Olympic gold in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2016. He also has won 10 of his 11 marathons.

He originally ran shorter distances, winning gold in the 5,000 meters at the world championship in 2003 in Paris.

Kipchoge switched to marathons after missing out on qualification for the London Olympics in 2012.

ByAllen Cone