Marathon world record holder Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya recently shared a special announcement on his social media: He’s once again aiming to break two hours in the marathon.
The attempt, dubbed the Ineos 1:59 Challenge, is sponsored by manufacturing company Ineos. It is scheduled to take place on a flat, 9.6K circuit in a shaded park called The Prater in Vienna, Austria, on October 12, Ineos announced on June 27. (There is an eight-day window up to October 20 where he could make the attempt should the weather not be ideal on October 12.) According to a press release provided to Runner’s World by Ineos, Kipchoge will run out and back on a 4.3K stretch of tree-lined pavement roughly 4.5 times.
At the ends of each stretch—which should offer prime viewing for spectators—the marathoner will turn around in street roundabouts. Though the release did not explicitly address it, the marathon will unlikely be eligible for a world record, due to the controlled nature of the event.
While Vienna might not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of marathoning—it doesn’t have the name recognition of running cities like London, Berlin, or Chicago, for example—the event organizers pointed out its many pros: the weather is ideal at that time of year, the air is fresh (The Prater is called the “green lung of Vienna”), the course is easily accessible for spectators, and the time zone is only one hour behind Kipchoge’s training base in Kenya.
“We have a responsibility to ensure he is given the best chance [at breaking 2:00],” Sir Jim Ratcliffe, chairman of Ineos, said in the release. “After an extensive search of venues fitting Eliud’s criteria, we are delighted to be working with Vienna, and hope to see history made in October.”
“I’ve been informed Vienna has a fast and flat course, nicely protected by trees,” Kipchoge said in the release. “The course is well situated in the heart of this beautiful city, which will enable a great number of spectators to be part of this historical event.”
If you’re scratching your head thinking, Wait, didn’t Kipchoge already try this?, you’re correct. In 2017, the year after Kipchoge won the Olympic gold medal in the marathon at Rio, he ran 2:00:25 for a record-ineligible marathon specially created by Nike’s Breaking2 Project in Monza, Italy.
“I learned a lot from my previous attempt, and I truly believe that I can go 26 seconds faster than I did in Monza two years ago,” Kipchoge said in the press release. “I am very excited about the months of good preparation to come and to show the world that when you focus on your goal, when you work hard and when you believe in yourself, anything is possible.”
Last September, Kipchoge officially broke the 26.2-mile world record when he won the 2018 Berlin Marathon in a blistering time of 2:01:39, shaving a minute and 18 seconds off the previous world record. The Kenyan runner then rallied to deliver another stunning performance in the London Marathon last month, breaking the tape for the fourth time in 2:02:37, the second-fastest marathon time ever recorded.
Kipchoge’s dominance in the 26.2-mile distance is pretty much uncontested. In the 11 marathons he’s competed in, the 34-year-old has only lost one, to Wilson Kipsang in the 2013 Berlin Marathon. While the elite field as a whole has improved over the years, Kipchoge’s progression has been leaps and bounds ahead of his competition—leading many in the running community to think that, if a sub-2:00 marathon is possible, Kipchoge will be the one to run it.
Others, however, don’t think the barrier will fall so soon. In a study published earlier this year, researchers predicted that if marathon times continue progressing as they have in the last 60 years, we won’t see a sub-2:00 marathon until 2032.
Whatever the odds, Kipchoge seems ready for the challenge—and he has the stats to back him up. Plus, this isn’t his first time racing that 120-minute timer.
“I believe in good training and good preparation,” he told Runner’s World at a press conference after his Breaking2 attempt in 2017. “If I have that, the 25 seconds will come.”