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'I'm still hungry to run fast': Long-distance legend Eliud Kipchoge has plenty more in the tank

 'I'm still hungry to run fast': Long-distance legend Eliud Kipchoge has plenty more in the tank
Copyright euronews
Copyright euronews
By Tokunbo Salako
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Over the past 20 years, Kenyan long-distance runner Eliud Kipchoge has shattered records and smashed preconceptions of what humans can achieve. Now aged 38, the marathon man has no plans to hang up his trainers yet.

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Kenyan athlete Eliud Kipchoge has made himself a living legend in sport over the last 20 years, and he is showing no sign of stopping or slowing down.

The long-distance runner became the first human in history to run a sub-two-hour unofficial marathon in 2019 as part of the INEOS 1:59 Challenge, recording a staggering time of 1:59:40 in Vienna.

But now he is in the unusual position of being on the comeback trail, having had his official latest marathon record - of 2:01:09 in Berlin in September 2022 - broken by compatriot Kelvin Kiptum in October's Chicago marathon in the US. 

Euronews spoke with Eliud Kipchoge about his greatest achievements, motivations, and future ambitions in sport and beyond.

Eliud Kipchoge, Long-distance runner speaks with Euronews
Eliud Kipchoge, Long-distance runner speaks with EuronewsEuronews

Tokunbo Salako, Euronews:

"First of all, I just wanted to congratulate you on receiving the Princess of Asturias Award for Sport. How did you feel when you heard about it?"

Eliud Kipchoge, Athlete, Princess of Asturias Award for Sport winner:

"I was really overwhelmed to learn that I am among the few who will be actually awarded, especially in my field as far as sport is concerned, but specifically running."

Tokunbo Salako:

"You've been variously described as a gift to sport, a gift to humanity. Some people say you're the perfect marriage between mind and body, the athlete's athlete. What does it feel like when you hear those types of descriptions talking about you and your illustrious career?"

Eliud Kipchoge:

"I feel really motivated. I feel inspired that I've been spared something in some way in this universe, and that's a huge motivation. And, you know, we are living on this planet, and this planet belongs to all of us, and we need to inspire everybody in this world. We need to live in harmony. We need to live in peace. We need to enjoy living actually in this world. And that's what hopefully I am working for."

Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge crosses the line to win the Berlin Marathon in Berlin, Germany, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022
Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge crosses the line to win the Berlin Marathon in Berlin, Germany, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022Christoph Soeder/Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

'Real success is mastery of what you are doing'

Tokunbo Salako:

"Is that the secret of your success? This desire to want to inspire others because you've been at the top for 20 years? In any field that's remarkable."

Eliud Kipchoge:

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"Oh, I think the real success [is] mastery of what you are doing. You know, I mastered what I am doing in running, and I realised the more I do better, the more I inspire someone. The more I do better, the more I send positive vibes to a kid. The more I do better, I might inspire someone to get out of the door in the morning and start running for themselves."

Tokunbo Salako:

"You're known for so many things Olympic titles, world championship titles, breaking marathon records, and quite recently in 2019, when you were the first person on earth in history to run a marathon in under two hours. What did that feel like?"

Eliud Kipchoge:

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"It feels great to make history [...] That signifies that there is no limit, as far as humanity is concerned. That's why I always say no human is limited. So I'm showing people the way that you don't have to be a real professional runner to break your limits. You might be a teacher, an educationalist, an engineer, or a lawyer, but you need to break your own limited circle in this world in order to enjoy life. I believe that life is about challenging yourself. I believe that life is about taking a nap the whole night and looking up in the morning as a new day approaches with a new challenge and handling that challenge and you know, pushing forward."

Eliud Kipchoge, Long-distance runner
Eliud Kipchoge, Long-distance runnerEuronews

'It's not about being awarded as a record holder, it's about making history'

Tokunbo Salako:

"How did you feel then after breaking that record and then having the world athletic authorities not recognise it?"

Eliud Kipchoge:

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"I was not running for the athletics bodies. I was running to help the human family. I trusted the six billion human family to have respect for what I am doing. It's not about being awarded as a record holder, it's about making history and making a change in this world. I'm happy I've made history in this sport. I'm happy because I've shown people that nothing is actually permanent in this world. I'm happy because I've injected a bit of inspiration to many, many billions of people in this world."

'Longevity is the key in sport'

Tokunbo Salako:

I don't know if you're wearing those shoes now, which are called the 'super shoes' that so many athletes have been wearing over the last few years, breaking records. Your own marathon record was broken just earlier this month. Are you planning to get it back?

Eliud Kipchoge:

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"Oh, I'm still hungry to run fast. I'm still hungry to show the world that I can run fast. I'm still hungry to show the next generation, the kids, that I still want to run for longer. Longevity is the key in sport. Longevity is the key in any profession. And you know, records are there to be broken. It shows the beauty of sport and that somebody somewhere is working for it."

Tokunbo Salako:

"For people who are not familiar with these 'super shoes'. Can you tell us a bit about them and a bit more about how they work?"

Eliud Kipchoge:

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"Oh, the Super Shoes [...] they prevent real impact from the asphalt or the tarmac to your muscles. The aim of running is to take care of your muscles. The aim of the people of the company is to make sure that you are becoming fit but at the same time taking care of your muscles.

'I use fame and fortune to inspire young people'

Tokunbo Salako:

"Now away from the track and the road, how do you deal with the fame and fortune?"

Eliud Kipchoge:

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"First I treat myself as a human being, and I know fame and fortune are things I collect when they are coming in. I say thank you for the fame and fortune. And I use the fame and fortune to inspire the young people."

Tokunbo Salako:

"I know that you've put a lot of your fame and fortune into your foundation. Tell us more about that, how that started and its aims and achievements."

Eliud Kipchoge:

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"One time I was sat down thinking about where I came from and that we had a limited education. I know what made us not prosper was [a] lack of reach - that thing that could carry us towards a good education. 

"I also know that in sports we need good air. So, two things came to my mind, conservation of the environment and education. I formed the Eliud Kipchoge Foundation, which deals purely with these two factors. Education and taking care of our planet. Because I trusted that if we make our world clean, we would make our waters blue and we would have real clean air. I trust that education is the key to propel sport. I trust that education is the key to taking people to places around the world. I trust that education is what makes you actually mingle with people and develop a conscience and work towards making this world a running world, and a peaceful world. 

So, my foundation is building kindergartens, and libraries where small kids go because if you give children good groundwork, that's the way."

And after that if there's a library in school, and it's full of books, I trust the knowledge in books and kids can get knowledge.

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Tokunbo Salako:

"That's a fitting message on which to end this. We're running out of time, but it would be remiss of me not to ask you. We already spoke about that record that you're going for. What are your future ambitions?"

Eliud Kipchoge:

"My future ambition is to make this world a running world. I trust that if all of us can run in the world we can make this world a happy one. We can unite together and enjoy this one."

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