Eliud Kipchoge has funding from Britain’s richest man for his bid to break the two-hour marathon barrier again later this year.
The fastest marathon runner of all time announced plans for the record attempt during a visit to the track in Oxford where Roger Bannister ran the first sub-four-minute mile 65 years ago on Monday.
“I want to unlock that thought that there are limitations in the human being,” Kipchoge told The Associated Press at the Iffley Road track. “There are no barriers when you believe in yourself and try and trust in what you are doing.”
The 34-year-old Olympic champion has gained the trust of Jim Ratcliffe, who founded chemicals group INEOS and is estimated by London-based Sunday Times Rich List to be worth 21 billion pounds ($28 billion).
London is where Ratcliffe hopes the Kenyan runner will in September or October be lowering his world record marathon time of 2 hours, 1 minute, 39 seconds — set in Berlin in September — to under two hours.
Kipchoge made an attempt at the Monza motor racing circuit in Italy in May 2017, falling 26 seconds short across 26.2 miles (42.2 kilometers) around an oval track in a time not sanctioned by the IAAF, because of variables such as pacers entering mid-race and drinks being given to runners via mopeds.
This time a parklands circuit could be favored over a road circuit because Ratcliffe anticipates needing dates in London on three consecutive weekends being set aside to ensure the conditions are optimal for Kipchoge.
“If we have it in London it would need to be an iconic location that fulfils the performance criteria that’s flat and has a good surface,” Ratcliffe said after posing with Kipchoge in front of a clock that read “1:59.00.”
According to Ratciffle’s vision, the ideal situation for the attempt would involve a circuit of 2 to 3 kilometers, and a crowd.
“It’s one of those great challenges in the sporting world to try and break two hours,” for the marathon, Ratcliffe told the AP. “If he does succeed it’ll be very inspirational for people. He’s the finest marathon runner the world has ever produced and I think he’s still getting better.”
This is the latest foray into sports for Ratcliffe, who has taken over the Team Sky cycling outfit and renamed it after INEOS.
“We worked for 25-30 years in business and it’s quite successful,” Ratcliffe said. “We can afford to do this and why shouldn’t we really? We’re putting a modest amount in our terms into sport. I think they are good endeavors. We enjoy it and we can.”
There is also a risk. Ratcliffe said he has conducted due diligence into the athletes he is now funding in cycling and athletics — two sports that have grappled with doping issues.
“We probe quite deeply into that,” Ratcliffe said. “I have no interest in cheating.”
Neither does Kipchoge.
“This is the time to prove to the whole world that you can run in a positive way,” Kipchoge said, “and in a clean way and actually make history.”
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