Sean Ehmann ’24
Who is the fastest man of all time? Seems like a simple question with a simple answer: Usain Bolt, multiple Olympic champion and world record holder for the 100m, 200m, and 4x100m relay. This answer is wrong, since speed over such a short distance doesn’t mean squat.
The true king of speed is Kenyan distance-runner Eliud Kipchoge, 2-time Olympic marathon champion, the world record holder in the marathon, and the first man to run a marathon in under 2 hours.
Imagine if a Formula 1 race was just one lap around the track. Wouldn’t it be boring watching that for just 30 seconds? When you’re writing an essay, would you be satisfied with pumping out a paragraph in 2 minutes, but having to take an hour-long break before writing another? Life is rarely a game of short sprints, and perserverance is the true mark of quality, both in life and in sport.
Let’s take a look at Kipchoge’s speed and speed sustainaility at his 2022 world record marathon performance in Berlin. With a time of 2:01:09, Kipchoge absolutely smashed his previous world record, set in 2018, by almost 30 seconds. Throughout the race, he averaged a pace of 2 minutes 52 seconds per kilometre (4:37/mile). This is equal to running across a Canadian football field, from goal-line to goal-line, in 17.3 seconds. He repeated this feat 20 times, holding that pace for about 6 episodes of Brooklyn 99 without commericals.
Kipchoge’s story is an inspirational one. He was raised by his single mother in mountainous Western Kenya, and he ran 2 miles to school daily. At 16, he met Patrick Sang, a steeplechase silver medallist at the ’92 Olympics, who has been his coach ever since.
He quickly rose to prominence on the track as a top 5000m runner, earning a bronze medal at the 2004 Olympics which he upgraded to a silver in Bejing four years later. However, in 2012, he failed to even qualify for the Kenyan Olympic team finishing 5th at the 5000m trials. Nevertheless, he perservered and decided to take his talents to road running, breaking the course record at his very first half marathon in Copenhagen.
Since transitioning to marathon running , Kipchoge has won 15 of 17 marathons. He is one of only two men to ever run under 2:02 in the marathon, and holds 4 of the 5 all-time best marathon times in history. As part of the Ineos 1:59 Challenge in 2019, he attempted a sub-2 hour marathon. He succeeded, in a time of 1:59:40; however, the time didn’t count as a world record because Kipchoge used pacers, special fliuds, and even a pacecar. To top it all off, Kipchoge achived dominant victories at the 2016 and 2020 Olympic marathons, something only three runners have accomplished.
Even at 37, Kipchoge has not reached his peak. He will likely be dominating for many years, perhaps setting his sights on Paris 2024 Summer Olympics, or running sub-2 hours on a world record eligible course. Regardless, his future accomplishments will most certainly put his current feats to shame, firmly cementing his position as the fastest man of all time.
Photo credit: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images