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What Can We Learn From an Attempt at Breaking the 2 Hour Marathon

What we can learn from the 2 hour marathon attempt

The limits of human endurance have recently been pushed.

On May 6, 2017, Eliud Kipchoge from Kenya attempted to break the two hour mark for running a marathon. The attempt was unofficial (it was not sanctioned by the International Association of Athletics Federation) and unsuccessful. Nonetheless, Eliud’s time of 2:00:25 is no small feat! And it was well under the current world record of 2:02:57 ran by fellow countryman Dennis Kimetto at the Berlin Marathon in 2014.

I’m going to break this down to give you an idea of how truly exceptional Eliud’s attempt is.

The marathon is a running event of 42.2 km. To run it in 2:00:25 would mean running at a pace of two minutes and 52 seconds per kilometer for 42.2 consecutive kilometers. How fast is that? It would be the same as maintaining an average speed of about 21 km/h – that’s fast! To attack this goal, a new shoe was developed and the expertise of exercise physiologists, dietitians, and engineers were used.

I’m highlighting this exceptional attempt because it shows that, what we perceive as impossible is actually achievable. The hard part is committing to a goal and putting in the effort to achieve it.

Here’s an example: Jackie is 46 years old and leads a busy life. She works 50 hour weeks, is married with two kids and a dog, and plays the guitar in whatever free time she has left. Noticing she’s been getting really out of breath when taking the stairs, she wants to do something about it. Jackie is passionate about helping others. So when a friend mentioned he was taking part in a charitable half marathon running event and encouraged her to join, she signed up! But Jackie hasn’t done a running event before and the half marathon is six months away.

As Jackie starts to train, she feels discouraged because she gets out of breath easily when she runs. She begins to think she’ll never be able to complete a half marathon. While she may feel like giving up, Jackie can achieve her goal.

One thing she could do is call Healthlink BC at 8-1-1 to get help with a training plan. Here’s what I’d suggest to Jackie or anyone else working towards a goal like hers:

  • Look at your goal and understand what is needed to achieve it. In Jackie’s case, a half marathon is 21.1 km. To complete it, four to five training sessions per week will be necessary, and a few exercises to stay injury free.
  • Make time for your goal. Use your agenda to schedule time in your day. It may take a bit of organization and creativity, but there’s always a solution. Jackie decided she would run on the track during her kids’ soccer practice and run home from work twice per week.
  • Commit to your goal. There might be challenging times, but keep the focus on why you are doing it. Jackie made a list of reasons for running that were important to her, which included being able to keep up with her kids, feeling good mentally, improving her fitness, and to stay physically healthy. When her motivation drops she remembers those reasons.

From completing a half marathon for the first time after only six months of training to running a full marathon in two hours, the limits on physical abilities you think exist – whether for yourself or humans in general – can be broken. Don’t let perceived barriers stop you from achieving your goals and ask for help when you need it. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!


Photo credit: International Association of Athletics Federation

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