Eliud Kipchoge: Marathoning's Zen Master, the Interview by Cathal Dennehy for RunBlogRun


Kipchoge_EliudBMW-Berlin15.JPGEliud Kipchoge, September 25, 2015, Berlin Press Conference, by PhotoRun.net

Eliud Kipchoge is the Zen Master of the marathon. It is not that he was a natural at the distance, he was not fond of it at first. But, Eliud Kipchoge used his cross country and track background and built up his endurance over several years.

His battle with Wilson Kipsang in London last April 2015 is, in my mind, one of the greatest marathons of all times. His defeat of Kenenisa Bekele in Chicago in October 2014 was a masterpiece of tactics. His smile as he dropped to 4:40 mile or better pace after 35k in Chicago was one of a man truly confident, but also a man whose hunches played out well. Kipchoge had broken the greatest track athlete at 10k and 5k ever, a man who still holds the two key world records on the long distance world: 5000 meters and 10,000 meters.

What will Eliud Kipchoge do on Sunday?

Well, Cathal Dennehy and I believe he will run fast.

Very, very fast.

On Sunday, Eliud Kipchoge returns to the Berlin Marathon two years after finishing second in the event and this time, the 30-year-old ranks as the clear favourite. In opposition, though, are two of the fastest marathoners in history: last year's runner-up Emmanuel Mutai and former New York and Boston Marathon champion Geoffrey Mutai. Kipchoge who won the London Marathon earlier this year in 2:04:42, sounded in confident form in Berlin this morning when he spoke to RunBlogRun.

What are your tactics for Sunday?

I will assess after 30km and see what the situation is and how my body feels.

Is your main goal to win the race or to set the world record?

I want the world record to be in my name. These are the fastest guys on the planet, though, so winning only is not important, but it's about how to prepare to win. The one who crosses the finish line first will be the one among us who is best prepared. I am focusing on a fast time on Sunday. It will be a very special day. All the Kenyans will be watching and it's a chance for me to run a faster time. I'm not saying [I'll run] the world record, but I want to run my PB.

What was your training like for Berlin?

I started a month after London [Marathon in April]. In June I decided to come and run in Berlin. My training has been good; I've been covering about 200km per week, running twice a day most days. My longest distance per week is normally 40km on Thursdays, and that can be 2:15 on a flat course, sometimes 2:20, 2:27, depending on how hilly the course is.

You train with Emmanuel Mutai; do you have an idea who is in the better shape?

I have a feeling my body is in good shape and ready to run on Sunday, but for the others, I don't know.

How do you feel your shape compares to when you won in London?

My shape is okay; it's somewhat the same as London. My training has been very good.

How often do you train with Mutai?

We normally train together three times a week, for important sessions.

What was your hardest workout?

Normally either the fartlek on the road or the long run on a hilly course. The fartlek is for one hour; it's can be 13 times three minutes high [pace], one minute low. Every Tuesday we go to the track. Patrick Sang is one of the best coaches in the world and we are very lucky to train with him. It is a privilege.

Is the Olympic Games in Rio a long-term goal?

That's in my mind, yes.

The Chicago Marathon decided to abandon pacemakers this year. What are your thoughts on that decision?

When they say yes [to pacemakers], they are right and when they say no, they are also right. Athletes learn better tactics without a pacemaker and athletes who are really focused can still run a fast time. For the faster time I prefer pacemakers but I enjoy it without too; you learn a lot about tactics. I need to learn how to run without them for the Olympics.

How much time has it taken for you to learn the marathon as an event?

It's a really slow process to change from the track to the marathon, from the fast workouts to the slow workouts. It takes a lot of thinking. All sport is about mentality. It's really physical but it takes time for the mind to accept the change.

Is it tough to be as motivated now as when you were younger?

It's really tough because people expect you to have very good results.

What do you think will be needed to get on the Kenyan team for the Olympic Games in Rio?

I think consistency and how you are able to handle the race. It's different in Kenya because we don't have trials and that's good, because it's not a good idea to have trials for a marathon. It comes down to what the federation decide and I don't know what they're considering.

You've been at the top of the sport for 12 years, which is very rare for a top Kenyan athlete. What to you attribute that to?

First of all, a lot of discipline. I'm treating sport as a profession. I get my priorities right. I sacrifice my feelings and passions for the sport. I don't complain about things and keep moving forward. When I reflect back 12 years, I am really happy with my mentality and character over that time and I hope to continue.

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