- Eliud Kipchoge has only lost once in his marathon career.
- He is the Olympic champion.
- The Kenyan is also the reigning IAAF Athlete of the Year.
Eliud Kipchoge, Kenya’s Sports Personality of the Year for 2018, isn’t bothered at all about having not earned State honours on Independence Day.
The huge irony of characters like the “githeri man” garlanded on previous national days, celebrated for merely offering comic relief, and Kipchoge’s world record run at last year’s Berlin Marathon uncelebrated, is the least of the Olympic champion’s worries.
Kipchoge is wealthy. Extremely wealthy.
But he is doesn’t flaunt his hard-earned riches by driving fuel-guzzling SUVs or treating his family to helicopter rides to beat the Nairobi traffic.
He can afford to.
But he would rather lead a simple life.
Like a monk in a Kaptagat monastery.
That’s what makes him a special athlete.
One we should all be grateful to have seen in our lifetime, because he’s a tough act to follow, and the world will take several generations to nurture one of similar mould.
He’s the G.O.A.T., the great of all time!
Kipchoge is also a philosopher, and gets his kick out of meeting people and reading books. Lots of books.
From motivational, to business and inspirational.
At the moment, he’s reading The Chimp Paradox by Professor Steve Peters.
The book is basically on mind management, where Prof. Peters demonstrates, in layman’s language, how one’s brain works to offer insights on how to make the mind works for us.
“Professor Steve Peters is an expert on how to manage your mind. It’s a very good book as far as knowing how a human being’s mind works,” Kipchoge, 34, tells me as we chat, beachside, at the Sarova Whitesands Hotel, his focused eyes surveying the beach line matter-of-factly.
This book is crucial to Kipchoge’s career, as his mantra has always been “if you don’t rule your mind, your mind will rule you.”
“I receive a lot of help from books,” he continues.
“They say knowledge is in books.
“There are two places where you can get knowledge – from books and people you meet.
“That’s why I’m reading books and meeting people. You cannot be successful when you don’t have knowledge.
“I read all books from inspirational books, motivational books and business books. I also want to start reading fiction. I’ve never read a fiction book but I will soon start doing it,” he adds.
Reading has helped in his mental training, an extremely important aspect in elite sport, especially the marathon.
“You know, 42 kilometres is a very long way and anything can distract you, either at the halfway mark, or three-quarters or some kilometres to the finish.
“So the moment your mind gets tired, then you are gone. It’s better for your body to be tired than your mind.
“Mental training is 60 percent important. Although you must be fit physically, but if you are both physically and mentally fit, then you are ready.”
This is the sort of philosophy that enabled him shake off Ethiopia’s debuting Guye Adola at the 2017 Berlin Marathon.
Running his first marathon race, the 26-year-old Ethiopian challenged Kipchoge, shoulder-to-shoulder, from the 30km mark.
Kipchoge (2:03:32) eventually won the battle, but he was mentally bruised and the Ethiopian rewarded with the fastest ever time for a debutant, 2:03:36.
“It was mental torture because I didn’t know what would happen or how strong the guy was,” Kipchoge recalls.
He emphasises that mental training is the most important aspect of marathon running, along with long-term preparations.
“When I’m running, I think about the finish line. I think about the splits; I think about the kilometres.
“After four months of training, then I’m ready to run. If I don’t train for four months, then I’m not going for a race, because that’s poor preparation, and I’ll go into a race fearing that some people will come and pass me.
“Someone who is more prepared can beat me, but when I’m well prepared, I don’t worry, and I concentrate on my splits and move.”
What makes Kipchoge stand out from the rest of the athletes is that he’s a stickler to detail.
No wonder his shoe sponsors Nike involve him in research and development of their distance running products.
So much respected is the Olympic champion that he has a boardroom named after him at Nike’s Beaverton headquarters in Portland, Oregon, USA.
He won the 2015 Berlin Marathon despite a “wardrobe malfunction” that saw the insole of his Nike Streak shoe flip out midway the race.
After that, he joined Nike technicians in Beaverton to improve the product.