4-minute miles and 2-hour marathons

Last weekend in Berlin, Eliud Kipchoge set a new world record for the marathon of 2:01:39. He averaged 4:38 per mile, and took an astonishing 78 seconds off the previous record.

Kipchoge has trained for years in order to set that world record. For decades he has monitored his diet and sleeping habits, has run hundreds of miles a week and spent countless hours in the gym, all to get his body into the best condition possible. Without that physical preparation, he couldn’t run the way he does.

But there’s another side to the story. Back in 1954, Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile barrier. Before Bannister’s run, most people thought the 4-minute mile was simply beyond the capabilities of the human body – they didn’t believe it could be done. But once Bannister had proved it was possible, a funny thing happened – 15 other runners got below four minutes by the end of 1957.

It’s easy to be dismissive of ‘the power of positive thinking’ – to reject it as New Age mumbo jumbo … but listen to any successful sportsperson, and you’ll hear them talk about the importance of visualisation, of having the right mindset, of believing in yourself. They understand that a large part of their success comes from the mental preparation.

Eliud Kipchoge is an extraordinary physical specimen. But without the mental preparation, he wouldn’t have a sub-2 hour marathon in his sights. He believes he can run a marathon in under two hours. “The only difference is thinking,” he recently said to a sceptical reporter. “You think it’s impossible. I think it’s possible.”

Perhaps we should ask ourselves a question … “What do I think is impossible?”

Learn more about Kipchoge