The wise men of the place say that destiny is a good card player and saw the hand clearly in 1984, when it marked the destiny of that child from his cradle, in the Nandi tribe, the Talai clan, an ethnic group massacred by the English and dark legends that roam the bonfires, that speak of invocations to the rain and of a absolute mind control, domesticated in the service of its owner. Legends?
Era is, Eliud Kipchoge, the best marathoner ever, the man who climbed Everest in Vienna, exceeding the limits of the human being by running 42 kilometers and 195 meters in less than two hours, in a non-approved mark. And we already have a story to tell, retouched by the damn virus, but a story at the end of the day.
Following the trail of Kipchoge takes us to the Kenyan plateau, to Kaptagat, a small village more than 2,000 meters above sea level, with clay soil and roads to the horizon. There is the ‘camp’, a cloistered monastery that rarely opens its doors to strangers, who 20 minutes was able to know as the only Spanish media thanks to the invitation of Nationale-Nederlanden, and where a score of men live by and for the marathon: a room with two massage tables, a dining room for all, a sink to wash clothes, an old television, a library that Eliud devours and private rooms. The greatest luxury? The wifi. Now, it remains at half gas, things of the pandemic.
Here the organization chart is clear: Patrick Sang, coach of the NN Running Team, is the boss, and Eliud Kipchoge, the leader. The commandments are two, indisputable: run and rest. There’s no more. “The democracy is me,” says Sang, a joker at times, and to whom a single gesture is worth to make his entire team firm. Egos are not allowed and current accounts, some with many zeros, are beyond the enclosure: here there are world champions, world record holders, Olympic medalists … and Kipchoge, who rolls up his sleeves every Wednesday or Thursday when it comes to cleaning the latrine. “I like to do it, I neither want nor pretend privileges”, he affirms, without any shadow of posture.
For anyone looking for answers or magic formulas that explain the Kipchoge phenomenon, perhaps somewhat diluted after his defeat in the last London marathon and this 2020 so … uf (put the adjective you prefer), the truth is boring: the secret is the group. “Eliud arrived here at 18 years old, has spent half his life in the camp, living with his teammates, training with them, improving, guiding them on the track and in life. He competes against himself and is insatiable ”, he says. Marc roig, a privileged one. He traveled from Spain to Kenya to try and ended up staying for love. Now, he is one more member of the family, a basic pillar with 2:18 in the marathon and through whose expert hands of a physiotherapist the legs of Eliud Kipchoge Y Kenenisa Bekele, eternal rivals. Cloth.
It’s time to train, it’s time to run. The other answer to the Eliud mystery
It’s Tuesday, any one of any month, of any year, with or without a mask (the center remained closed but the routines are strictly adhered to), and it’s five in the morning. Dawn for the NN Running Team and no dark circles are seen or complaints are heard. There is also no time for breakfast: “Digestion would hinder training, but I’m not saying it’s good to train without breakfast. We do it this way due to the circumstances and the weather in Kenya, because if we train later it would be very hot ”, clarifies Chief Sang.
An hour later, with the sun still sleeping, they are all on the university track. They touch 10 sets of 1,600 meters at a light jog and with active rest of 200 meters until you get gas again. Sang organizes a group of about 60 athletes, young aspirants in search of a capitalist future. There is no mercy, and whoever tries to climb without permission in the training script will be blown away until he finishes walking, dead. Pure natural selection.
“We train without breakfast because, if we trained later, it would be very hot here”
In the sixth series, the train has already lost several wagons that cannot keep up with the rhythm of the main locomotive, at full speed: Kipchoge and Geoffrey Kamworor, world record holder of half marathon (58:01) and destined for the succession of Eliud, pull. now braked by a traffic accident (a motorcycle fractured her tibia). They march at 2 minutes and 55 seconds per kilometer, a pace not compatible with 99.5% of human beings. After the session, return to the camp and have breakfast: tea, bread and two hard-boiled eggs, as Groucho would say. And afterward, some will lie on the grass, take a nap or stop by Peter Nduhiu’s workshop, head mechanic of fibers and muscles. In the afternoon, as always, there are 10 kilometers left to loosen up and, at 9:30 p.m., a confession with his close friend Augustine Choge, a roommate, and to sleep.
There is no athlete in the region and surroundings who does not know the group’s training schedule. They all know that Thursday is the long run at dawn. It will be 30/40 kilometers at a rate of three minutes. In command, the usual: they do not talk, just enough water and energy drinks or supplementary gels not even remotely, they just run. In just over an hour and a half the route has already been aired. However, not everything is simple and rudimentary in the Kipchoge universe, whose multiple physical and physiological parameters travel daily to the United States, where a team of Nike experts is in charge of translating any variable to make Eliud and Patrick’s life easier.
At full power and with competitions on the horizon, Sang’s group reaches the 200 kilometers per week plus the days of ‘gym’ (the weights or see them) and complementary exercises. Each athlete has his plan, although everything has changed a bit in recent months. There is no harm that does not come, and the virus has returned to Eliud a long-forgotten concept: family life, his three children and Grace, his wife, who continues to take care of everything. He has been like this for 18 years and his voice, a whisper, lets out a message: “After the Games I will let you know that this has to end”. Eliud, shortly after, will not take for granted: “For the moment I am not going to retire, I will continue running.” We will see how the matter ends. The stumble in London, where he finished eighth, has increased the appetite of the dethroned king, who has the Olympic event between his eyebrows. Will something run before? It can … it doesn’t just depend on him.
Running is a matter of faith for this guy: “My mind is focused on that and I don’t have time for anything else, not even for family. It doesn’t make sense to think about problems that I’m not going to be able to solve from here. I’m here for it. that I am: running. ”Face to face, Eliud Kipchoge is an affable guy, who doesn’t raise his voice and tests the recorder’s ability to archive the sound of each message.
“I’ve never gotten up without wanting to train. It’s hot or rainy, I always train”
He is really a monk. It takes the right time between word and word, disturbing a journalist who does not know whether to shut up or ask the following question. Hobbies? Read everything, Tottenham, watch the news, and you don’t know who Jon Snow or Sheldon Cooper is. Nor does it seem in the possession of the faithful companion of every runner, laziness. “I have never gotten up without wanting to train. It’s hot or it rains, I always train ”. Perhaps a change of expression is only sensed when it comes to talking about the extra ingredient in his feat of 1:59 Vienna. Yes, the magic shoes that, experts say, improve performance by up to 4%. “Let me ask you one thing: what car do you have? And what tires do you have? ” Faced with the journalist’s ignorance, Kipchoge develops his theory: “The important thing is the engine, that’s what counts. It seems good to me that we all run with the same rules and that there is a regulation, but the advancement of technology cannot be ignored ”.
It was in Vienna that Kipchoge’s name transcended beyond athletics. An earthquake that he lived in his own way, calm: “I had trained very well, I learned from Monza’s mistakes (the previous challenge, when he surpassed the two-hour barrier for 30 seconds) I did everything Patrick told me and, although I started nervous, at kilometer five I already knew that it would be less than two hours. It was a magical moment and reaching that hour, 59 minutes and 40 seconds showed that no human being has limits”. The slogan is out of the box and allows a glimpse of a future beyond athletics: “When I stop running I would like to do something to help people. I’m not interested in being remembered as an athlete, it’s not important to run more or less. The important thing is to be a good person ”.
For now, until that retreat that his wife longs for arrives, Kipchoge will continue in the constant race to defeat Eliud and exceed your marks. He waits impatiently for the Olympic appointment to try to hang his second Olympic gold. “He knows that if he trains as he should, almost no one or no one can beat him, that’s why you see him so calm,” Marc Roig repeats. What if you lose? “Losing is a part of the sport, and of course it scares me, but if you don’t accept defeat, you don’t enjoy the sport, and I love running.” He already demonstrated it in London: “Life is full of challenges. Now it’s time to look to the future.” The thorn is well nailed. Watch out.
There are still nights when, restless, Patrick Sang wakes up in his sleep. “It happens to me many times. I wonder: what would have happened if you hadn’t paid attention to that 16-year-old who asked you for a two-week training session? I think about it a lot ”.
Normally, when Patrick is struck by that doubt, Eliud has already risen. He has little left to start running.