Another Reminder of the Folly of Limits

Athletics – Berlin Marathon – Berlin, Germany – September 16, 2018 Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge celebrates after winning the Berlin Marathon alongside a clock showing his World Record breaking time REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch – RC1657B23E70

In case you haven’t heard, we’ve had another amazing athletic performance.  On Sunday, September 16, Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya (of course) set a new marathon record in Berlin — 26.2 miles in 2:01:39.  That lowers the men’s record by 78 seconds.  That means Kipchoge averaged 4:38 per mile. (For comparison, the world’s record for ONE mile was 4:36.5 in 1865, https://www.maa.org/sites/default/files/images/upload_library/3/osslets/100multiParameterAnimation/mile_record_scatter.html .)

I ran the Berlin Marathon in 2015 with a time of 3:58:00; this is almost twice as fast as what I can do (although for the record he’s about half my age).  The venue is no surprise — Berlin is a flat course conducive to great performances; in 2015 they were honoring  Kenyan (of course) Dennis Kimetto’s 2:02:57 record the previous year.

Will we see a two-hour marathon any time soon?  It may be closer than you think.  Kipchoge was one of the runners Nike chose for their “Breaking2” experiment on May 6, 2017 (https://www.nike.com/us/en_us/c/running/breaking2).  This effort addressed the question “Was a two-hour marathon possible if conditions were optimized?” (meaning modifications, like a closed course and pacers, which wouldn’t be allowed in competition).  On that day, Kipchoge ran a 2:00:25.  So close!

If none of this impresses you, consider Ironman Triathlon competitors — 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a 26.2-mile run.  Or Scott Jurek’s  running the Appalachian Trail in 46 days in 2015. That’s covering 47 miles a day for a month and a half.  (But then, that record has since been broken twice.)  Or Pete Kostelnick doing the Badwater Ultramarathon, 135 miles from below sea level in California’s Death Valley in mid-July to 8,360 feet on Mount Whitney,  in just under 22 hours in 2016.  (And people think I’m crazy.)

What do all of these have in common?  They demonstrate the folly of setting limits.  One thing the sport of running has taught me, it’s full of “How did I do that?” moments.  So if you’re contemplating doing something ambitious, no matter what it is, just keep one thought in the back of your mind — Don’t limit yourself.

Ever.

Taken from “A New World Marathon Record Almost Defies Description” by Vernon Loeb (https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2018/09/eliud-kipchoges-world-marathon-record/570400/).  The photo came from that site.

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