What you need to know:
- The two-time Olympic marathon champion says he is not yet ready to hung up his Nike Alphafly racing shoes as he targets a third Olympic title in Paris next summer
- Kipchoge said the pathway to success in sports, just like in business, is found in discipline, focus and hard work
- He is impressing on his sons Griffin and Gordon to take after him and keep the fire burning in the family in a planned hand-over of the relay baton
“The moment you retire, that’s the end of you!” The words of Kenya’s decorated marathon legend Eliud Kipchoge.
The two-time Olympic marathon champion says he is not yet ready to hung up his Nike Alphafly racing shoes as he targets a third Olympic title in Paris next summer.
Not even with the looming threat of johnnie-come-lately Kelvin Kiptum who snatched the veteran’s world marathon record in Chicago last month, clocking a jaw-dropping two hours and 35 seconds.
Kipchoge, 39, told Nation Sport in Kericho that to him, retirement is not an option, urging even those who have attained the legal retirement age of 60 not to disintegrate, but keep pushing, even if it meant working at “half throttle.”
He has set his sights firmly on grabbing a hat-trick of Olympic marathon titles when the race in Paris is run on August 10 next year.
And the Paris Olympics offers an exciting backdrop for the herculean feat as, for the first time, the race will be open to the public who will run alongside the Olympic athletes on a 42-kilometre loop that connects Paris with Versailles.
The race will start at the iconic Hotel de Ville, which is the City Hall of Paris, and finish at the historic Les Invalides, going through nine districts of Paris, Boulogne-Billancourt, Sèvres, Ville d’Avray, Versailles, Viroflay, Chaville, Meudon and Issy-les-Moulineaux, and is expected to attract 20,024 runners, elite and amateur.
Against such a beautiful backdrop, Kipchoge wouldn’t like Kiptum to rain on his parade again, but has since offered encouragement to new talent coming up that “no human is limited.”
“I would not encourage anyone to retire from his work. The moment you retire, that is the end of you,” Kipchoge said at the Kericho Golf Club during an exclusive dinner with members of the local business community organised by his automobile sponsors, Isuzu East Africa.
Firing a salvo at his detractors, the legend added that an elderly person who has hit 60 years of age should be encouraged to continue working, taking breaks, even working half a day if necessary.
“I have been training for next year’s Olympics. I am training to win, even with over 180 countries fielding athletes in the discipline. I am training to win,” he said matter-of-factly.
In 2019, Kipchoge ran 1:59:40 to became the first person to break the two-hour barrier in the marathon at a specially-organised run dubbed “INEOS 1:59” in Vienna, Austria, which was, however, not recognized as a world record by World Athletics as the race conditions did not apply to world record specifications.
But he has since broken the world record twice – at the Berlin Marathon in 2018 (2:02.57) and on the same course in 2022 (2:01.09).
Asked what he thought of Kiptum going for his own 1:59 attempt at next April’s Rotterdam Marathon, Kipchoge said he was not worried as “records are there to be broken in athletics.”
He said those talking about that record have to be familiar with the case of Roger Bannister, the Briton who ran the first sub-four minute mile in 1954 clocking 3:59.4.
Bannister, lowered Gunder Haggs’ nine-year-old record of 4:01.4 minute which he set on July 17, 1945.
“Bannister's record (set on May 6, 1954 in Oxford) only lasted 46 days,” Kipchoge said in reference to the possibility of his own tumbling down in the future.
John Landy lowered the record to 3:57.9 on June 21, 1954, which IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations, as World Athletics was known then) ratified as 3:58 in its official records, setting the stage for future records to be broken in the discipline.
Bannister, who set the record while competing as a student at Oxford University, St Mary's Medical School, later became a neurologist and wrote a book – “The Four Minute Mile” - was born on March 23, 1929, and died on March 3, 2018, at the age of 88.
Kipchoge said the pathway to success in sports, just like in business, is found in discipline, focus and hard work.
“I have been in this field for 20 years. I celebrated that feat on October 31 this year. If I was a person who would give up 15 years ago, I would not be here. This is about patience and consistency,” Kipchoge noted.
In response to a question on how he feels like running with juniors in the marathon, at an age when many of his peers have long retired, the philosophical Kipchoge said without blinking an eye: “It is like being a Managing Director of a company and working with an intern!”
When asked what he plans to do now after having conquered the world, Kipchoge answered in his trademark philosophical tone: “I am a Kalenjin by birth and culture. Where I come from, you do not chase two rabbits. You chase only one rabbit. I am now chasing the Olympics.”
Kipchoge is poised to receive an Honorary Degree (Doctor of Humane Letters) from the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) on December 1.
The Degree (Honris Causa) comes hot on the heels of his being awarded the prestigious Princess of Asturias Sports Award in Oviedo, Spain.
Kipchoge was also awarded a honorary degree by Laikipia University in 2019, in what adds colour to his eventful career on and off the track.
The G.O.A.T. (Great of All Time) is concerned about the rise in cases of athletes violating anti-doping rules.
“Doping is unfortunate in sports as we should be running clean and being proud to win (or lose) clean.
“If you fall sick and I take you to hospital, who will be getting the treatment? Is it not the patient? On the same note, the athletes who engage in doping should be punished,” he stated.
He expressed gratitude to President William Ruto for renaming Kericho Green Stadium as Kiprugut Chumo Stadium in honour of the first Kenyan to ever win a medal in the Olympics, a bronze in the 800 metres at the Tokyo 1964 Games.
“The renaming of Kericho Green Stadium to Kiprugut Chumo is welcome and we should not talk about when it should have been done. It has been renamed and that is what matters. The people of Kericho should appreciate the government for that."
Ruto ordered the stadium to be renamed on October 20 during the Mashujaa Day celebrations held at the facility undergoing a facelift at a cost of over Sh400 million.
Kipchoge said unlike other athletes who have made a stab at elective positions in the society, he was comfortable being a leader in sports.
“I want to be the one who leads. But I do not want to be a leader. There is a difference," Kipchoge said.
He said doing that and touching the lives of others was a big motivation and inspiration for him with his mantra that "no human is limited."
He encouraged Kenyans to engage in a regime that keeps them fit and compete in races irrespective of the positions they are ranked.
"I went to Greece five years ago, and I came across a 90-year-old man who was still running and was very fit," Kipchoge stated.
“When you want to understand why being fit and healthy is important, then you have to visit three sites – a hospital, a cemetery and a prison,” the philosopher added.
“In a hospital ward, you will realize why you need to keep working and keep fit. In a cemetery, you will realize you do not take anything out of this world. In prisons you will appreciate the meaning of freedom.”
Kipchoge, always the patriotic athlete with a trademark smile, says he has travelled the world, but never found as good a country as Kenya.
“Kenya is a good country. There is no other like this one in the world. The people only need to change their mindset and this will be a great country,” Kipchoge said.
He is impressing on his sons Griffin and Gordon to take after him and keep the fire burning in the family in a planned hand-over of the relay baton.
“I am encouraging them to love the sport and I can tell you that children are doing what the parents are doing” Kipchoge said.
“My sons have a right to independently choose his career path. I am encouraging him to go into athletics and pick a race that is good for him,” he added.
He caused a ripple of laughter when he said that there are two types of parents – the helicopter parents and the lawn mower parents.
“The helicopter parents prepare their children for the road while the lawn mower parents prepare the roads for their children," he stated, attracting uproarious laughter from the attendees.
“As parents, we should prepare our children for the road and not the road for the children. We take them to school so that should anything happen, they are prepared for the road (life) ,” he said
“Mothers always prepare the road for their children and that is wrong. They should go to the bathroom, take a shower, look themselves up in the mirror and accept to be helicopter parents. Only then shall we have a great country,” Kipchoge said.
He stated that parents should accord their children an education and an opportunity to face the challenges of the changing times in the society.
“The Prince of Dubai once said that their forefathers and fathers were using manual cars. But as we talk now, the Prince is using an automatic car. But he is worried that his children may go back to the 1940s for the manual car.”
“You should be a value-oriented person and take care of your family. Make your bed before you leave because that (family) is where you will fall back on. They are the key to life and you will find them there. They will also be there. At the end of the day you will go there.”
To reinforce his strong points, Kipchoge embarked on funny narratives and anecdotes that kept the Kericho audience captivated.
“I will tell you a story of a dog and an elephant that got impregnated on the same day and time. But after three months, the dog had given birth to 18 puppies. But 18 months later, the elephant had not given birth.”
“The dog went to the elephant and asked whether she was sure she was pregnant. The elephant said when I give birth, it would not be to puppies but to an elephant. And when I do give birth, the world will know because the baby elephant will hit the world with a thud and everyone will know about it.”
But what is the moral of the story?
“Be patient enough and good things will come to you. Wait for your right time to come because you will give birth to an elephant and not a puppy,” Kipchoge expounded, adding that one will get what he aims for with discipline, patience and hard work.
He dished out pieces of advice to businessmen in the country and the need for hard work and patriotism
"If you are a Managing Director of a company, manage the managers, then the managers will manage the supervisors will in turn manage those below them. As a Managing Director, you should never manage the sweeper or tea girl in the office. That is not your role,” Kipchoge stated.
“We have to change how we see our country. We have to see Kenya with a good lens. This is a good country that we will live in forever. We need to change the people’s mindset on how they see their country.”
“For the business community, success would not happen overnight. It will take time and generations to be successful. It is not a one night event, it requires a lot of patience.”
On patriotism, business growth and creating employment opportunities, he encourages Kenyans to buy local products to spur development.
"If you go to Britain, France, America, they are using their own locally manufactured motor vehicles,” he explained.
Kipchoge also called on Kenyans to support local enterprises and for Kenyans to embrace the entrepreneurship spirit.
“I am looking forward to the time this country will use Isuzu that is locally assembled. When the government and everyone will be buying and driving it on our roads because it is our customized product," Kipchoge said.
When he was done with his speech and fielded questions from journalists and the businessmen, he was subjected to a long round of photo sessions with everyone demanding a piece of the G.O.A.T.