October may hail the end of summer, the nights drawing in, and the coming of the colder months, but, this week; with Eliud Kipchoge’s INEOS 1:59 Challenge, the penultimate World Marathon Major of the year – The Bank of America Chicago Marathon, the last of the years cycling monuments at Il Lombardia, and the Vega IRONMAN World Championships, held on the legendary Hawaii course at Kailua- Kona, things were really heating up this weekend in the world of sport.
For years people thought it would be impossible, then, as records drew ever closer, maybe not impossible, they conceded, but certainly not going to happen for many years yet. Then, back in 2017, in Monza, Italy, Kenyan Marathon Legend and current world record holder (at the time the record was 2:02:57, set by Kenya’s Dennis Kimetto, at Berlin 2014) Eliud Kipchoge attempted the seemingly impossible.
In 2017 however it wasn’t to be, Kipchoge clocked the undeniably impressive time of 2.00.25 but, however mind-blowing it was, he still fell short of breaking one of the last remaining barriers in human sporting achievement.
In 2018, at the BMW Berlin marathon, a course known for sending records tumbling, Kipchoge set the bar even higher, by pushing the world record lower. His time, 2:01:39, wiped well over a minute off the previous record and made many of the doubters wonder if maybe the sub 2 hour marathon could be done.
After his spectacular Berlin performance, it was announced that Kipchoge, with the support of chemical company INEOS, and sportswear giants Nike, was going to attempt the impossible again.
The location of this second attempt was to be Prater, a large public park in Vienna, Austria. The route would consist of a flat 5.97 mile loop with virtually no inclines at all, to be run a total of 4.4 times ( producing 26.2 miles). The entire route featured, just less than, 8 feet of climbs.
The attempt finally took place on Saturday 12 October 2019 at 08:15. The forecast was favourable for optimum running conditions, dry with temperatures between 9 and 12 degrees Celsius throughout the morning. With the help of 41 world class and step perfect pacers Kipchoge achieved the unachievable; running faultless split times (fastest 5 k – 14:10, fastest – 14:14), he crossed the finish line in a jaw dropping 1:59:40.
Although not an official world record, for a number of reasons, Kipchoge’s awe inspiring efforts have proved that ‘no human is limited’ and that the sub 2 hour marathon mark IS an achievable goal … now the question that remains on everybody’s mind is, can Kipchoge replicate his sub 2 hour time on an official course? – Perhaps on the streets of Berlin in 2020?
While big name runners Mo Farah, Galen Rupp, and Jordan Hasay, all had tough days in the office at the windy city this weekend, it was far from a slow news day in the fast paced world of the Wanda Marathon Majors.
The elite men’s race came down to a nail biting sprint finish with Kenya’s Lawrence Cherono took the crown in 2:05:45, finishing just one second ahead of Ethiopian competitor Debela Dejene who himself finished just a few seconds ahead of his fellow countryman Asefa Mengstu, who completed the podium, finishing in an impressive 2:05:48, to round up the closest podium in Chicago Marathon history.
Having claimed victory at the world’s oldest marathon, back in April, in a time of 2:07:57, Cherono is now the first man to take both the Boston and Chicago marathon titles in the same year since 2006.
In the ladies race, Kenyan Brigid Kosgei, perhaps inspired by her compatriot Eliud Kipchoge’s phenomenal efforts in breaking the 1:59 marathon barrier, took a whopping 81 seconds off Paula Radcliffe’s London Marathon time, absolutely obliterating the Brit’s long- standing world record. Kosgei ran an impressively even race with half marathon splits of 66:59 and 67:05 respectively, and, perhaps more impressively, the Kenyan Woman ran the final 7 kilometres of the race faster than British Marathon Record Holder Sir Mo Farah.
The Bank of America Chicago Marathon in 2019 also served as the selection race for the 2020 USA Paralympic team selection for the wheelchair race. American youngster and defending champion, Daniel Romanchuk took the title in the men’s race, backing up an incredible year in which he also took victories in the Boston and London Marathons. He finished ahead of Britain’s David Weir, while Ernst Van Dyk of South Africa finished just 1 second behind Weir to claim 3rd.
In the Women’s wheelchair race Switzerland’s Manuela Schär claimed victory in a time of 1:41:08, with her closest rivals Americans, Tatyana McFadden and Amanda McGrory, finishing some 4 minutes behind with times of 1:45:22 and 1:45:29 respectively.
Dutchman Bauke Mollema had the ride of his life last Saturday, as he took the biggest win of his career, and first monument victory, at Il Lombardia, the last monuments race of the 2019 season.
While it will surely prove an unforgettable victory for the 32 year old of team Trek–Segafredo, the day was one to forget for the Italian riders. The two times winner of the race, and former champion at all 3 grand tours, Vincenzo Nibali, finished in a disappointing 55th place, after swerving to avoid a stray bottle on the road with about 20 km of the race remaining. The highest placed native finisher was Giovanni Visconti of Neri Sottoli–Selle Italia–KTM, who came in in 17th place. 2019 was the first time since 1990 that the host nation failed to have a rider finish in the top 10 of the race.
Mollema took victory by way of a heroic solo attack, on the penultimate climb of the race, on the Civiglio. He quickly managed to extend his lead to an impressive 20 seconds, following his initial attack, and, although other race favourites such as Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), Egan Bernal (Ineos), attempted a counter attack, there was no cohesion between theses big name riders, each going for their own individual glory and although, each of them hit out in turn, they were quickly swallowed back up by the peloton. This lack of organisation allowed Mollema to counter each of the attacks, as they came, and power his way, through the last 18 k, to ultimate victory.
Elsewhere in the race, compatriot of Mollema, and firm cycling fan favourite Laurens Ten Dam, having announced his forthcoming retirement earlier in the year, rode his last ever professional race, against the beautiful backdrop of Lake Como, at the 2019 edition of Il Lombardia. Soaking up every second of the atmosphere, the Dutch cycling legend rolled over the finish line, almost 20 minutes behind the leaders, in 94th place.
In 1978 a legend was born. When 3 men; a swimmer, a cyclist and a runner decided upon the ultimate contest (combining the Waikiki Rough Water Swim, the Round Oahu Road Race (now known as the Dick Evans Memorial Race) and the Honolulu Marathon), with the idea being to find out who, overall, was the fittest. The winner, they decided, would be known as the IRONMAN. Taxi Driver Gordon Haller (still a keen triathlete at 69 years of age) was the winner of that contest in a time of 11 hours 46 minutes and 58 seconds.
After a few years, in 1981, the race moved to the less urbanized Big Island, to accommodate it’s ever growing popularity, and to a new home at, the now legendary, Kailua Kona Bay.
Now, in 2019, the 41st year of IRONMAN, the event on Hawaii has totally transformed. Kailua Kona now plays host to almost 2500 athletes each year, who have to qualify in any one of the 49 qualifying races, held in 27 different countries, around the world, each year. In 2019 almost 100,000 people took part in an IRONMAN race, a far cry from the 15 brave souls who took on the first race over 40 years ago.
This year it was Australia’s Josh Amberger who led the way out of the swim section (3.8 km) of the race in an impressive 47:28. He was the first of a lead pack of nine, including British Olympic hero Alistair Brownlee and 2x defending champion Patrick Lange of Germany. Brownlee took a quick lead on the bike, soon cutting the lead pack of 9, down to just 5 Frodeno, Amberger, Clavel, O’Donnell and Brownlee himself. Lange, who had reportedly had been suffering from flu like symptoms in the days leading up to the race, pulled up less than halfway through the bike section to take no further part in the race. Other big name DNF’s included 2018’s 3rd place finisher David McNamee (GBR), Swedish Triathlon hero Patrik Nilsson, and, in the women’s race twice Olympian Sarah True, and 3 time Queen of Kona (with 7 podium finishes) and former Kona record holder Australia’s Miranda Carfrae, were all among those claimed by the infamous course at Kona. Towards the end of the bike section, twice champion, Germany’s Jan Frodeno made a bold move, to give himself a lead of almost 90 seconds, heading into T2.
In the ladies race, it was Britain’s Lucy Charles- Barclay who took (as expected from the former elite swimmer) an early lead in the race. The 26 year Old completed the Roka swim course in 49:02, less than a minute off her own record, 48:14) set in 2018, closely followed by another big ‘fish’ of the sport Lauren Brandon (USA). The young American however, made a costly error in transition, leaving Lucy out on her own for the entire 180 km on the bike. Charles – Barclay set out on the marathon with almost an 8 minute lead on the rest of the pack, and the big surprise of the day was Swiss 4 x defending champion Daniela Ryf who, also recovering from illness, found herself in a very unfamiliar 9th position coming off the bike.
Back to the men’s race where Frodeno looked on fire, and needed to be as, to set a new championship record he was required to run a blistering 2 hr 44 min marathon split. However, his determination never faded, and a split of 2:42:43 saw him cross the line in 7:51:13 was enough to take the day over 8 minutes ahead of the rest of the field.
Brownlee suffered in the 90% humidity of Big Island and, at his first ever full IRONMAN effort, as the swim was cut for safety reasons at the Irish long distance course at which he claimed victory, and finished in 21st place in a time of 8:25:03. The men’s podium was completed with Tim O’Donnell (USA) in 7:59:40, and in 3rd was German Sebastian Kienle, with a time of 8:02:04. The first British Athlete to finish was Joe Skipper who, despite suffering a puncture late on in the bike course, ran an impressive 2:53:31 to claim 6th place overall, in a just a shade over 8 hours.
Despite Charles – Barclays bold move and recent good form (having set a 5k pb only a matter of weeks ago), it would have taken a small miracle to hold off Germany’s Anne Haug. Known as one of the strongest runners in the sport, the German athlete ran an incredible 2:51:07 marathon, and past the British athlete around the 25 km mark, to claim her first Kona crown. Although it looked as though Charles – Barclay was fading badly, and at one time she did indeed fall behind Sarah Crowley of Australia. The Brit put in a gutsy effort, towards the end of the race, and pulled herself back into her third consecutive 2nd place finish at Kona.
Haug, the Club la Santa sponsored athlete, has been injured for much of the year, and claimed of her mind blowing performance that she ‘even surprised herself’
Whether running, swimming, cycling, or a combination of the three, is what takes your fancy; it is hard to deny that this weekend was a phenomenal and ground breaking one in the world of endurance sports. Keep up to date with our blog, for all the latest news from the world of running, cycling and triathlon, and check out our incredible range of event packages, for your opportunity to set your own records in 2020!
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