I do a lot of physical activity. But I’m not a runner. Not unless I’m racing to catch a train. But I take an active interest in athletic feats of all types, because I am a student of human potential and possibility.
The Sub–2-Hour Marathon
The push to break the 2-hour mark in a marathon has been a thing for a while.
Earlier this year, researchers predicted that if marathon times continue progressing as they have in the last 60 years, we won’t see a man run a marathon in under 2 hours until 2032.
The researchers performed a statistical analysis of data from marathon world records over the past 60 years to create their prediction.
One of the fallacies of “logical” thinking is that you can predict the future based on the past. We tend to think that things will continue as they were, or even as they are. In truth, they are not related. Even if it seems like one leads to the other.
Today Eliud Kipchoge, a Kenyan who set the world record in the marathon by running 2:01.39 in the 2018 Berlin Marathon, ran a 26.2 miles in 1:59.40 in Vienna.
His time won’t count for a world record, because the marathon he ran in Vienna was not an open event — it was a carefully planned and controlled event designed for the purpose of breaking the 2-hour barrier.
Kipchoge and his sponsors chose the location because of its flat surface and tree-lined path that would block the wind. 36 elite runners accompanied him as pacesetters, running in formation designed by engineers to insulate Kipchoge from headwinds that could slow his speed. A digital car drove ahead, shining a green light on the path so they would know exactly where to run.
Critics will point to these factors to support their claim that it doesn’t count because it wasn’t a “real” marathon.
But wasn’t it?
A marathon is 26.2 miles. That’s what he ran.
It’s never been done in under 2 hours, not even under similar curated “ideal” conditions. Two years ago, Kipchoge attempted to break the 2-hour mark at an event created by Nike’s Breaking2 project in Italy. In that attempt, he clocked in at 2:00.25.
Kipchoge wasn’t doing this to claim an official world record. He ran this marathon to prove what he knew: that under the right conditions he could run 26.2 miles in under 2 hours.
What We Can Learn
Instead of judging or diminishing his accomplishment because it wasn’t an official race, we can learn something from Kipchoge.
Kipchoge created his ideal conditions to succeed. Not to get an official world record, but to prove that he could do the thing he knew he could do.
He knew he could run a sub–2-hour marathon in the right conditions, and gave himself what he needed to make that happen.
He created space for his best work.
He put himself in the right physical environment, trained with the best coaches, and surrounded himself with the elite in his field to help him stay on track.
Now that he’s done it, he can focus on doing it under non-ideal conditions.
What Are Your Ideal Conditions?
Each of us has a thing we desire to do and that know we can do. But so many things can get in our way: environment, other people, health conditions, equipment, materials, our mindset and beliefs.
What do you need to do to create space for your best work?
What do need to succeed in the way you know you can?
Do you even know? Many people don’t pause to consider what they need.
If you do know, how willing are you to give yourself what you know you need?