Eliud Kipchoge, Experience counts, by Larry Eder


Kipchoge_Eluid-Berlin15.JPGEliud Kipchoge, photo by PhotoRun.net

I have been fascinated with the reactions to Eliud Kipchoge's win today. Much of the social media response has been about insoles moving around his shoes, causing blisters and even cutting his toe.

We live in a time where everything has to have an reason and that someone or something has to be at fault. I would like to offer another suggestion.

Read on, please.

Kipchoge_EliudBMW-Berlin15.JPGEliud Kipchoge, photo by PhotoRun.net

Running is more than going from point A to point B.

As one modern philosopher noted, a few years ago: "Shit happens."

Such was the day of one Eliud Kipchoge. Early in his race, his sock liners in his special make racing shoes began to slip around his shoes. That movement created friction between Eliud's feet and shoes, causing blisters and some reported cuts on a toe.

Yet, Eliud persisted. In his post race story for RunBlogRun, Cathal Dennehy noted of Eliud Kipchoge that the winner of Chicago and London marathons did not want to stop, as he might loose his momentum.

Inner soles are one's of those pieces of running shoes that the brands would wish would just go away. Most serious runners purchase innser soles from third party suppliers so that they can improve the fit and feel of their shoes. It happens from the beginning runners to the most experienced runners. Inner soles by third party companies is one of the hottest accessories sold in run specialty stores (a huge part of the 19 percent of accesory business that is part of run specialty).

I ran for over 20 years, and raced for sixteen of those years. I ran in everyone of the major brands, and sometimes, things happened. I had a track spike plate come off at the end of a mile, inner soles ball up during races, and hot spaces created. Blisters were the norm. And yes, even in this day of great shoes, things happen.

Even for elite athletes.

Shoes are so much better now, and the ability to find a great pair of shoes is so much easier. My company tracks over 47 brands of running and trail shoes.

Special make shoes? That is where innovation happens. When Joan Benoit Samuelson was racing Grete Waitz and Ingrid Kristensen, she required a special make as she had flat feet (I think she ran in the Nike Axis back then). Brooks made a special racer for John Walker.

The innovation we see at shoes comes at a price. As there are great innovations, there are, innovations that are not so great.

Eliud Kipchoge's issues were the perfect storm.

Inner soles not glued into the shoe began to move around. Perhaps the shoe was too large for Eliud, and the inner soles began to move around.

The inner soles flapping in the wind on TV, and in photos has gone viral. Notes to me ranged from concern for Eliud, to how much time Eliud lost due to the inner soles, to who Nike was going to fire over the mishap.

Eliud Kipchoge is an elite athlete. He has had good races and bad races. His development from a young distance runner to the World Champion at the age of 18, to, now, at 31 years of age, the zen master of marathoning is a great story.

Here is my issue: World records are not guaranteed. Just because one can run fast, or has the ability to run fast, does not mean that one will.

A two hour and four minute marathon makes Eliud Kipchoge the sixth fastest man EVER over 26.2 miles. Rewatch the Berlin marathon: Eliud Kipchoge was red lining the entire race. His 14:23 for 5000 meters, in the segment between 30 kilometers and 35 kilometers broke the race open.

His ability to build from two seconds to twenty-four seconds, to then, eighty-one seconds at the finish, shows that Eliud Kipchoge is at the top of his game.

The inner soles flapping in the wind for twelve kilometers at least, added to the discomfort that Eliud Kipchoge expereinced running 4:45 a mile pace or better for 26.2 miles. They also were perfect for social media. Something easy to focus on. Someone to blame.

Racing marathons at a world class effort is an acquired talent. It took Eliud Kipchoge nearly three years to build his base and his confidence over marathoning.

His win in Chicago Marathon was a brilliant race over some of the best runners in the world. His win in London was a race against the best marathoner in the world, Wilson Kipsang and the world record holder, Dennis Kimetto.

His win in Berlin shows that Eliud Kipchoge is prepared for nearly anything.

The inner soles flapping in the wind are not something that one can prepare for. A lesser athlete might have stopped and lost their position and momentum in the marathon. Not Eliud KIpchoge.

Eliud Kipchoge's race was not one dimensional. He overcame a top field, an equipment malfunction and the life span of an elite marathoner (pretty short), to win Berlin.

I recall asking Eliud, after his Chicago victory, why he smiled all the way from 35 kilometers to the finish. Eliud noted that he was feeling good and that he knew he was in winning form.

Nothing was going to stop Eliud Kipchoge from winning Berlin today.

How fast could he have gone without the inner soles giving him a runner's version of the Trials of Job (biblical reference)?

Not sure.

Truth is, I don't really care.

It was a really good race.

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