Cape Town — When you’ve become an Olympic champion, world champion and won most of the major marathons in the world, there is little left to conquer in the running world.
But marathon world recordholder Eliud Kipchoge is not just any athlete. The 37-year-old Kenyan is not just still chasing medals and titles… it’s about way more than that.
He feels that he has a far greater purpose in his professional career – to use the vehicle of sport to bring about unity around the globe.
Those are lofty ambitions, even for someone like Kipchoge, who has enjoyed an illustrious career. He hopes that being nominated for the Laureus Sportsman of the Year award will bring greater awareness to his main mission at the moment: being an inspiration for anybody who faces the odds and wants to succeed in life.
He is up against Max Verstappen, Novak Djokovic, Tom Brady, Robert Lewandowski and Caeleb Dressel, and the winner will be announced in April.
“I am happy to be one of the nominees, especially after the hard two years, because of Covid. But the bar is to give hope and pushing for our normal lives to come again. It’s really important to me to win the Laureus award, as the main thing is the inspiration. I want to win the Laureus award to inspire that boy, to inspire the youth,” Kipchoge said from Cape Town via a Zoom call hosted by Laureus this week.
“(Nelson) Mandela (Laureus patron) once said that sport is actually bringing hope where despair was, and it talks to eavery individual in their own language. I want to win the Laureus award to echo what our patron was saying.
“I am in South Africa now, where Mandela was the president of this country, where I am now in Cape Town. The meaning of this quote actually is that sport can change the lives of everybody, can change the world, can make the world united. Sport can make those youth who have lost hope, to have hope again.
“Sport has its own unique language – sport can talk to the youth, to the woman, to the man and children in a different way. Sport is the way to go in this world.”
Kipchoge made history when he became the first person to break the two-hour barrier for the marathon distance, clocking 1:59.40 in an event in Vienna, Austria, where he ran 4.4 laps of a specially devised course.
It is not recognised as the world record, though, as it was not conducted under regular marathon conditions. He does hold the official mark as well – 2:01.39 at the 2018 Berlin Marathon – and has been victorious at four of the six world marathon majors: Berlin, London, Tokyo and Chicago, with New York and Boston still outstanding.
Add two consecutive Olympic golds at Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020, as well as a 5 000m world championship title, and there isn’t much left for Kipchoge to achieve.
The holy grail, though, is the sub-two-hour marathon. “I have tried to run under two hours and I have shown everybody the way.
I trust, and believe, and have faith that one day, one time in future – if not soon – a human being will run a normal marathon under two hours,” Kipchoge said.
“I think the first thing is the mind, to accept and move to a subtwo-hour in a normal marathon. I need to actually control my mind and push it again – maybe encourage other people to push their limits also and run under two hours.
“I’m still driven by the love of sport and the pressure that I am feeling from the whole world, especially the youth, who are the future.
On my bucket list, I still want to do something that can ignite the world to love sport more.
“I still actually want to run all the six major world marathons. I still want to run big city marathons, where sport is not really featured. I really want to go around the world – in North America, in Indonesia, in Thailand – just to run and to show people that sport is great. It can bring unity, it can make you healthy… it can make you think positively. That’s the only way to make our world a united world.”
Considering that he was in the Mother City, Independent Media asked him if he might compete in the Cape Town Marathon one day, and he replied: “Cape Town, it is my future plan to come and run here. I want to run more than that marathon – maybe to run 52km here in Cape Town, and to feel that joy when you run for a very long time.
“I am in Cape Town to see how the town is, to mingle with my friends, and tell those who I will meet: Please, let us feature in sport.”
The 2024 Paris Olympics is not too far away, and Kipchoge could make it a hat-trick of marathon titles in France. But there are still a number of goals that he can achieve over the next two years at least, and he wants to push himself even further when it comes to the world record.
“(Paris) 2024 is actually on my bucket list – it is in the front of my mind. I think the Tokyo Marathon has the best course, has the fastest course. But I am happy with the results. I want to go back again to run in Tokyo, and at the Olympic Games, we were supposed to run in the streets of Tokyo,” Kipchoge said.
“But due to the unavoidable circumstances of Covid-19, we were pushed a 1 000km away in Sapporo. But I am happy to be invited and run again in the streets of Tokyo. All in all, Tokyo has the best course, and to run a world record is easy there.
“For now, nothing is planned. As always, I will update all of you guys about what will be rolling for the whole year in the next one-and-a-half months.