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It Always Seems Impossible Until It’s Done

There are certain athletics feats that for so long seem are deemed to be simply unachievable.

Roger Bannister made history 65 years ago when he broke the 4 minute mile barrier. It had never been done before and at the time, people felt it may never be done again. It always feel impossible until it’s done. Bannister’s time would be broken just 46 days by John Landy of Australia and the record today is held by Hicham El Guerrouj at a scarcely believable 3 minutes and 43 seconds.

Up until the 1968 Olympics the 100 meters had never been run in under ten seconds before. Athletes had got close but had never quite succeeded. That was until the Night of Speed. Jim Hines, Ronnie Ray Smith and Charles Greene all broke the 10 second barrier in the same race! The record has been broken multiple times since although the legality of some of those times is up for debate. The landscape of sprinting changed again when Usain Bolt arrived on the scene and not only broke 9.70 seconds but then broke 9.60 seconds – something that was thought as of unthinkable just 5 decades previously.

There was one barrier left to break. One that felt a step too far, one that we couldn’t imagine being done in our lifetime. However, Saturday 12th October, the day that redefined what was humanly possible. Eliud Kipchoge ran the marathon in less than two hours and 48 hours after completing it nobody can scarcely believe it happened.

His attempt at the record meant he had to stick to a pace of 2min 50sec per kilometre – the equivalent to running 100m in 17.2 seconds, 422 times. Go out to a park and time how quickly it takes you to do a 100m and you’ll get an idea of just what an extraordinary achievement this was.

Asked what his reaction was at completing the historic time he said “This shows no one is limited. Now I’ve done it, I am expecting more people to do it after me.”

It was only five years ago that the Science of Sport website suggested the two hour mark could be broken but that it wouldn’t be broken until 2100. They were out by 81 years but it shows the magnitude of the achievement.

Why’s it important? Jones, an adviser on the Breaking 2 project, said Kipchoge’s achievement could “reset the psychological framework for everybody else”.

“I think it will now be more common to see people running 2:02 or 2:01 and, more importantly, for the youngsters in Ethiopia and Kenya and elsewhere – it’s reset what’s possible. For them, 1:59 is the new status quo.”

Kipchoge, clearly overwhelmed at what he had achieved, tweeted later “Today we went to the Moon and came back to earth! I am at a loss for words for all the support I have received from all over the world. Thank you to all who gave me the opportunity. Asante.”

Records are there to be broken. Just remember, those that say it can’t be done should get out of the way of those doing it because human achievement knows no limits.

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