INEOS challenge: Eliud Kipchoge leaves for Austria tonight

Eliud Kipchoge at the Iffley road running track on the April 30. [Ineos/Thomas Lovelock]

World marathon record holder Eliud Kipchoge leaves tonight for the Ineos 1:59 Challenge in Vienna, Austria. When he arrives in Austria the Kenya star athlete is expected to jog over the 4.3km Prater Hauptallee course.

Depending on weather conditions, Kipchoge is expected to attempt the sub two-hour marathon between October 12 and 20.

Yesterday, St Paul’s University Catholic Church held special prayers for the marathon Olympic champion. Kipchoge, a devout Catholic told Standard Sports he was in high spirits as he jets out for the herculean task in Vienna. “I will leave tomorrow (today). All is well as I head there,” Kipchoge said.

His mother Janeth Rotich, said: “I wake up at 3am every day to pray for Kipchoge. I pray the rosary.”

Moses Kiptanui, the three-time 3,000 steeplechase champion and the first man to run the water and barriers race under eight minutes, said he prays for Kipchoge.

“I know it’s not easy. He needs to get good health, right conditions and the pace setters to get their tactics right.”

Kipchoge ran the 42Km in 2:0025 on May 6, 2017 and will hope to shave off 26 seconds to dip under the landmark two-hour barrier — a feat he told Reuters was like landing on the moon.

“It’s like stepping on the moon, going up the tallest mountain and even going to the middle of the ocean,” Kipchoge was quoted as saying.

 WHAT: INEOS 1:59 Challenge

 WHEN: Saturday, October 12; the race is scheduled to begin at 8 am in Vienna and 9am Nairobi

 WHY TO WATCH: Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya was this close to breaking the barrier in 2017, when he ran 2:00:25. Since then, he has grown stronger and faster, clocking the fastest record-eligible marathons of all time within the last year.


 The location

Vienna offers many advantages as a venue for the attempt, including the fact that it’s only an hour behind Kipchoge’s home time zone. This means his sleeping and eating patterns won’t be disrupted and he can remain in Kenya, reaping the benefits of being at 2,400m altitude, before heading to the O2-rich air of Vienna, at 165m, the day before his attempt.

 The course

After a showpiece start on Vienna’s Reichsbrücke bridge, Kipchoge will run 1.2km to The Prater, a park known as the ‘green lung of Vienna’, and begin four laps of the Hauptallee, the historic avenue that runs through it. Each lap will consist of two 4.3km straight stretches, with turning points coming at the Lusthaus and Praterstern roundabouts at either end of the avenue. That makes it roughly 90 per cent straight – far straighter than the Monza circuit, or any road-marathon route – and Kipchoge believes this will make a difference. It’s also pancake flat, with just a 2.6m height difference and 0.06 per cent gradient change on the route.

 The weather

Another major plus of Vienna is its weather – cool and sunny in October, with an average temperature of 10C (min 6.4C, max 14.3), low humidity and only six days of rain.

This was an area identified for improvement after Monza, when a shower spiked humidity. Higher humidity makes it harder for sweat to evaporate, which means the athlete feels hotter. Also, a wet surface means energy-sapping slipping. Vienna’s weather history and the eight-day window should ensure better conditions than Kipchoge had at Monza.

 Kipchoge’s shoe upgrade

The Vaporfly 4% shoes (engineered to make athletes four per cent faster) worn by Kipchoge at Monza, and developed by Nike for the Breaking2 project, set a new performance benchmark. The carbon fibre plates have proven even more effective at propelling athletes forward than they were in propelling themselves into controversy, but Nike has pressed on and the ZoomX Vaporfly Next%, which Kipchoge will wear in Vienna, are a major evolution.

The carbon plate is still there, but a 15g drop in the weight of the upper means 15% more midsole has been added with no overall weight gain. The Vaporweave upper also offers a 75% reduction in moisture retention, according to Nike, reducing incremental weight increase from moisture.


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