Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge ran a specially prepared and ultra-flat course in a park in Vienna in a canned attempt to break the 2-hour barrier in marathon running. He holds the official world record - 2:01:39 set in Berlin last year - for running in a mass-participation marathon. He also is the reigning Olympic gold medalist. So this event was more of an exercise in publicity for its sponsors and proof of concept for a lot of the innovations that helped him overcome this threshold. It'll be a few years before we see the 2-hour mark broken in actual competition, but Kipchoge just proved it is in fact possible.
"I want to inspire many people, that no human is limited."
Many of these track and field milestones are indeed just mental blocks that have to be overcome. The be-all end-all authority, at least in my opinion, on the mindset of running comes from perhaps the greatest novelist alive, Haruki Murakami. His amazing "memoir of sorts" about his own obsession with running is titled What I Think About When I Think About Running. Indeed, especially for ultramarathoners like Murakami, it is all in one's head. Once you've run 26.2 miles, there really is no reason why you can't run another 40 or so more. Shoot, why not just make it an even 100 miles?
The Japanese pragmatist in Murakami calmly advises, "I'm not a human, I'm a piece of machinery. I don't need to feel a thing, just forge ahead." Running is, after all, probably the most perfect metaphor for human limitations in all of existence: "Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that's the essence of running and a metaphor for life."
I wonder if Kipchoge has read Murakami's running masterpiece. He certainly talks like him when discussing his feat.
“I just have to make that click in people’s minds that no human is limited,” was the mantra he spouted all week in the runup to the attempt. After the race, he said that his goal was about “making history in this world, like the first man to go to the moon.”
Roger Bannister was the first to break the 4-minute mile in 1954. Jim Hines broke the 10-second barrier in the 100-meter sprint. Dick Fosbury was the first to figure out how to jump over 7 feet in the high jump. Both accomplished those feats in the 1968 Olympics. In 2009, Usain Bolt was the first to beat 9.6 seconds in the 100 meter sprint. No one has come close since.
We often hear people say, "I don't have time to do it." My daughter is of the age (3 years old) where if she doesn't feel like doing something, she just says, "我不会。(I can't.)" But these are just excuses we give ourselves to make ourselves or the people we are telling them to feel better.
So remember next time you find yourself falling into that same trap. Kipchoge ran a 2-hour marathon. I can do anything I set my mind to. Yeah, it takes time, practice, repetition, etc. But once you are resolved to dedicate the mental effort to accomplishing something, the rest comes easy.