A strong feature of Eliud Kipchoge’s athletics career is his ability to savour moments of success to the full without rushing ahead mentally to consider future challenges. On the evening of breaking his own world record with 2:01:09 at the BMW BERLIN-MARATHON, the greatest exponent of the event in history spoke about how important a role planning plays in his success.
After each triumph, and there have been many, including four victories in the marathon in Berlin, two of them with world records, the Kenyan is quizzed about his future plans, whether they be for Olympics or further record attempts. He explained why he clears his mind of anything beyond the next month or so of regeneration: “You have all your heart and mind for one goal and the only way to fulfil that goal is concentrate, to control effort and if you do too many things, you cannot concentrate, so the idea is to concentrate on one thing, finish it in a good way and then you forget it.”
A key aspect in his approach appears to be the ability to “forget it”, leaving the recent performance, however successful, stored in his mental archives while he genuinely thinks only of the month of rest and recovery ahead. It’s a system which has taken time to refine and was definitely not the finished product when, as an 18-year-old, he won the 5,000m at the World Championships in Paris in 2003, beating Kenenisa Bekele and Hicham El Guerrouj: “I have grown, when I say that I have planned many things, I still learn every day and learn that what works is getting one thing and working on it. The month of regeneration from now is about taking care of my body again, relaxing the mind, letting my muscles and mind relax, ready for the next thing which is to feel fresh in my body which allows me to focus again.”
He did give an insight into how he and his team plan and adaptability is a factor. Next year will soon be in his sights but the Olympics in Paris in 2024 will not be at the forefront of their immediate discussion: “We plan from year to year. I don’t plan for years, we can even plan for half a year ahead, we sit together see what is available. We’ve finished the plan for this year with Berlin. We’re now going back and relax and go around the world, talking about sport and youth, then sit round the table and see what is available for 2023. The Olympics in 2024? It’s still far away, it’s about 700 days from now, it’s a very long time.”
Eliud Kipchoge did give a hint of what the future might hold, including further attempts to run sub-2 hours in the marathon: “I can’t say now, but if I feel I could do it, I would go and try.” Bearing in mind his comment soon after breaking his own world record in Berlin on Sunday morning: “My legs and my body still feel young and my mind is also strong”, that sounds a real possibility.
In response to a light-hearted enquiry of whether journalists might attend as onlookers when he and his team have their next planning meeting, the great Kenyan, ever the modern sportsman, encouraged the questioner and other members of the media to join his social media page to stay up to date with developments.
More information is available online at: www.berlin-marathon.com