Why I Can't Get Excited About Kipchoge.
Posted on: 19 Oct 2019
Eliud Kipchoge - undoubtedly a fine and incredibly talented athete in his own right - he holds the current recognised marathon world record (02:01:39) after all - steps into the history books as the first man to run a marathon in under 2 hours, and I'm supposed to be excited. I want to be excited. I feel I ought to be excited.
I am not.
Is it my blessing, or my curse, that I look upon this feat and what I really feel, is that actually, I am possibly the only person on this earth who is looking at it through open eyes?
On what I am about to say - feel free to make up your own mind:
That is the number of years currently sanctioned Kenyan athletes will be serving bans for when we Realbuzzers and our running friends toe the line next Saturday in Snowdonia. The reason for those sanctions - DOPING!
That is the number of Kenyan athletes serving doping bans just ahead of the recent World Athletics Championships in Doha.
Ah yes - Russia. What's Russia got to do with it? Maybe something, maybe nothing. It was just the number 46 turned my eye towards the soviet state - because the last thing I remember hearing about them in terms of doping was that 43 olympic medals have been stripped from Russian athletes - more than any other nation - but in light of what we learned around the Rio olympics 3 years back - there's no real surprises there.
That is the age at which human beings hit their physical peak in terms of elite level marathon running times.
Muscle strength, bone density, maximum heart rate, physical endurance - ALL peak around this time.
Eliud Kipchoge - 34 years old. Kenyan. 6 years (ish) beyond his physical peak. Sponsored by Nike.
There's been a lot of talk about shoes.
And let's be honest here - we're talking Nike - it is ALL about the shoes!
20% of us (roughly) exercise. 80% of us do not. Nike aren't selling their wares to us - the exercisers - they're selling to the 80% - the non-active - the 4 times larger slice of the market that will buy more readily into an idea. That's the big sell here - not the product - but the idea. Worked pretty well with Michael Jordan too didn't it?
I don't blame any one particular individual here - or even any one organisation - it is a symptom of how things are in the crapitalist economies of the world - but don't let me wander off onto political turf; I'll not come back.
To be honest, in terms of this sub 2hr run, the shoes are not my major concern, but there is one aspect to them which troubles me:
"There is a rule, introduced in 2007 by the International Athletics Federation (IAAF), which relates to the use of ‘technical aids’ during competition. Rule 144.2 of the IAAF Competition Rules states that “the use of any technical device that incorporates springs, wheels or any other element that provides the user with an advantage over another athlete not using such a device will be prohibited in athletic competition”. For example, some high tech prosthetic blades are banned as they would give a disabled athlete an unfair advantage."
There is no doubt these shoes provide an advantage that is risking being in breach of these rules;
"Embedded in their thick foamy sole is a curved carbon-fibre plate which Nike research says give an improved metabolic efficiency of 4 per cent."
It even sounds like an amputee's blades. It sticks in my throat the thought that a disabled athlete could be classed as having an unfair advantage against able bodied athletes, for basically using similar technology to that which is contained within these shoes. It raises questions of morality - and that shouldn't be happening in sport.
I don't really care about the flat course, or the pacers, or the financial backing of the 1:59 challenge. We'd all sit behind another runner into a headwind for a while if we could. We'll all run faster on a flatter course than a hilly one. I couldn't give a rats ass about that. Some folks moaned about Paula Radcliffe's world record because she used pacers - I never took issue with that - nor do I take issue with the fact that her record is now gone.
I care about truth.
And I don't believe we are seeing it.
Lance Armstrong. 2009. 37 years old. 8 years (ish) beyond his physical peak. Sponsored by Nike.
He was my hero. Cancer survivor. Most combative and entertaining rider I had ever watched on a bike.
But we were being sold an idea.
And the parallels are just too strong to be ignored.
Word for word, or near as damn it, that is depressingly like reading Tyler Hamilton talking of life on the U.S. Postal team - with Lance.
How long I wonder? How long?
The backdrop of doping has created an environment in which I can't celebrate this achievement, despite wanting to, because I simply can't believe in it. I need my heroes just like anyone else does - but in the sport’s theatre, I need them to be real. I need ALL of them to be real.
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