Kipchoge Says He Hasn’t Passed His Last Milestone Yet
As a new film comes out about his 1:59 marathon, Kipchoge talks about training, challenges, motivation and running until he's 100.
Outside's long reads email newsletter features our strongest writing, most ambitious reporting, and award-winning storytelling about the outdoors. Sign up today.
Although the new film about Eliud Kipchoge is entitled The Last Milestone, Kipchoge is quick to affirm that he is looking forward to passing many more mile markers.
“Absolutely, I’m still around,” he said in a phone interview on Friday. “I think time is still actually on my side.”
In fact, he’s looking forward to competing for decades into the future: “I visited Greece some time back, and I found an older man, 90 years old. He told me, he wants to run marathons until he’s 100. So, why not me?”
Will he be breaking age-group records? He doesn’t think so. “I’ll just be jogging with other people,” he said.
In the immediate future, he’s still got competitive aspirations, although he’s not ready to announce where he will toe the line again.
“For now,” he said. “I’m purely concentrating on my recovery, after the Olympics. I want to enjoy the medal from the Olympics. I want to enjoy the launch of the movie, The Last Milestone. It’s what I’m focusing on. To internalize, and actually see how the inspiration will go into the whole world.”
That inspiration, an 87-minute documentary, Kipchoge: The Last Milestone, produced by Academy Award nominee Ridley Scott and directed by Jake Scott, will be released on Tuesday, August 24. The film takes us behind the scenes into all facets of Kipchoge’s successful attempt to break 2-hours for the marathon in Vienna in October 2019.
While the outcome is known from the start — no plot spoilers here — runners will find much to enjoy in the footage of training in Kenya, the myriad details of preparation, and the race itself: the smooth rotating of the pacers, the metronomic patter of the pack’s feet echoing the ticking of the clock, the growing fatigue on Kipchoge’s face weighed against the mounting excitement as he hits split after split — and the climax, as the impossible goal becomes a reality.
That’s the part that thrills Kipchoge most: “My favorite part of the film is showing when I’m crossing the finish line actually, and seeing the time: 1:59:40.”
Watching it again, nearly two years later, I still felt that vicariously thrill all marathoners know of approaching the finish and realizing that this goal we’ve chased for so long is actually going to happen this time.
Like all runners who pursue PRs and qualifying times, Kipchoge says the biggest challenge was to wrap his mind around accepting the pace. He didn’t change the overall pattern of the physical training he does for any marathon, but he did run lots of kilometers at and below the 2:50/k pace he needed.
“I trained the same, I’m always training the same,” he said. “But to do 1:59, I was training the way I’m training, but the mentality was to really conduce my mind to actually cope with 2:50 pace, and even under 2:50 pace, so that was a big challenge.”
The 1:59 run was the hardest race he’s tackled, he says, mostly because of the pressure: “It took a lot of energy, both physically and mentally. Especially knowing that you are going to compete with the time, with everybody seeing you in the whole world. Will you really crack the 2-hour barrier?”
Still, Kipchoge, who has raced every distance successfully, respects the difficulty of shorter races. “I think 1500m actually was a little more challenging,” he said. “It is too intensive, it really needs lot of speed. I know every race has a lot of challenges. Pushing for the marathon, the speed is slower, but the work is really huge. So, I think the 1500m though is the most challenge, because you’re pressing on too much.”
Spoken like a born marathoner. Kipchoge agrees that he’s found his place in the marathon, which suits his personality as well as his ability.
And Kipchoge, the quiet philosopher, is the star of the film beyond his running.
“The way you think about pain is the way your life will be,” Kipchoge says early in the film. “In this world you need to undergo pain in order to be successful.”
Director Jake Scott says he found this part of Kipchoge utterly fascinating. “I started to realize, this quietness, and humility — this is a power,” Scott says. “He’s wise, he’s almost a mystic.”
Scott says Kipchoge doesn’t just parrot the “No Human is Limited” message. “I think he’s running for that. I think he’s running in that belief. It’s intrinsic.”
“Personally, I don’t believe in limits,” Kipchoge says. “The moment you tell your mind ‘I am not able to do this,’ miracles cannot happen.”
It’s a message we need right now; we could use more miracles. Kipchoge can make you believe too. After all his success, he maintains that his motivation is helping people live a better life.
“The real motivation actually comes from how I’m inspiring people,” he said. “And I always want to inspire more and more. My happiness is to see young children, youth, getting inspired, loving running and enjoying a positive life.”
He’s inspired me, and the film provides a heart-rate-escalating way to be motivated by Kipchoge again. Be prepared to lace up and head out for some miles of your own after you watch it, relishing the rhythm of your running feet and dreaming of breaking your limits.
You’ll be able to stream Kipchoge: The Last Milestone on multiple platforms starting Tuesday, August 24. It is available for preorder now on iTunes.