On a day dripping with 86% humidity in Japan, Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge somehow ignored the heat to win his second Olympic marathon.
Kipchoge won back-to-back gold medals at the Olympics in Rio and Tokyo — an important feat, he says. In Tokyo, some runners had to drop out in the middle of the race because of brutal heat and humidity.
“Oh, it was really hard and it was really taking a lot from our bodies,” he says. “But I finished the whole marathon and it was really hot.”
The victory marks just the latest superhuman accomplishment of Kipchoge’s career. In 2019, he became the first human to run a marathon in under two hours. A new documentary called “Kipchoge: The Last Milestone” tells the story of how he did it.
The runner had a team of scientists who helped him cross the finish line in record time. The audience also learns that Kipchoge is as much a philosopher as he is an athlete.
Marathons present challenges, pain, ups and downs — much like life itself, he says in the documentary.
Kipchoge demonstrates both physical and mental strength during competition. Dave Brailsford, CEO of the INEOS 1:59 Challenge, praises Kipchoge’s mental fitness in the film: “He's got an incredible physiology, he's got incredible efficiency as an athlete, and he's got an absolutely incredible mind.”
Mental strength plays a “huge role” in running marathons or competing in any other sport, Kipchoge says.
The runner doesn’t doubt his ability to achieve his goals, though he sometimes considered whether athletes from other countries were in better shape at the Olympics.
When Kipchoge feels his muscles aching all over his body as he runs, that’s when he knows to keep pushing himself forward.
“When it's really terrible then I start to still tend to push on, to press on, press on, press on,” he says, “because I have a trust that where there is pain, there is success.”
And quitting isn’t even an option for Kipchoge.
“I'm trying all my best to throw away the terminology of giving up,” he says.
The documentary chronicles Kipchoge’s second attempt to run a marathon in under two hours — something no other human being has done. Believing that limitations only exist in his mind helped him achieve this first, he says.
When he broke the two-hour barrier, Kipchoge wasn’t competing against other runners. A team of scientists helped him shave off every possible second: He wore a controversial pair of shoes. Pacers ran in front of him to reduce the drag.
Technology and innovation are moving the world of sports forward, he says, and support from a good team is an important part of success.
Kipchoge trusts that another runner will beat his record someday. That’s the nature of sports, he says. He recalls that the four-minute mile barrier went unchallenged until 1954.
“I have shown at least that to run [a marathon] in under two hours, it’s possible,” he says. “They now know the way.”
Kipchoge says he runs because he loves the sport and it helped him learn to enjoy life.
“In any sport — if you are a footballer, if you are playing American soccer, if you are a basketballer — the bottom line is you should run in order to be fit to do that sport,” he says. “Running is a universal event in all sorts of sports.”
In the documentary, Patrick Sang, Kipchoge’s lifelong coach and mentor, explains that Kenyan athletes are expected to bring home the gold. Kipchoge says he feels pressure to win and serve as a role model to young athletes — but he’s happy to inspire people.
Kipchoge makes it clear in the film that he doesn’t believe humans have limits and he wouldn’t have been able to break the two-hour barrier if he didn’t believe he could. He has a simple piece of advice for anyone who doubts they can achieve a seemingly impossible goal like he did: Change your mind and don’t believe in limitations.
This segment aired on August 24, 2021.