“Self-discipline starts with you. It’s no other person. It starts with you. Start to examine yourself… Self-discipline is doing what’s right instead of doing what you feel like doing. That’s the meaning of self-discipline.”
With his latest victory at London, Eliud Kipchoge’s dominance in the marathon is unparalleled. While him running the second fastest time ever in a marathon at London is impressive, what is even more mind-blowing is the win was his 10th in a row. He’s also taken 1st place in 11 out of the 12 marathons he’s entered with his only loss coming in 2013, a 2nd place finish to Wilson Kipsang who set the world record at the time.
Kipchoge also holds 3 of the top 6 fastest marathon times and shattered the previous world record of 2:02:57 by 1:18 at the 2018 Berlin Marathon with a time of 2:01:39. His London performance (2:02:37) was a course record and 2nd best time ever. And even though it was unofficial, his attempt to break the 2-hour marathon barrier came up short with a time of 2:00:25.
He has won the Berlin Marathon 3 times, London 4 times, and took first place at his only appearance in the Chicago Marathon, all world marathon majors. In 2018, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) named Kipchoge as the Male World Athlete of the Year.
I can go on about all the records and accomplishments he’s achieved. I can talk about his training regimen, his work ethic, and all he does to be the best marathoner in the world. I’m sure that would make for a great story. All the above stand on their own merit. However, I want to take a glimpse into who Eliud Kipchoge is, not what he’s accomplished.
Born in a small town in Kenya, Kipchoge was raised by a single mother and was the youngest of four children. His father, whom he knew only from pictures, died before he was born. Growing up on a farm and to a strict mother taught Kipchoge the value of hard work, which he incorporates into his everyday training. And he logs every training day in a notebook and has for the past 16 years.
“When I was young, I was molded in a positive way. But I was not lucky to have two parents. When you have both parents, you have advantage. So I was supposed to work more harder than the other children in the village. The life was hard the way it was but it’s okay. I have never complained and I will never complain.”—Eliud Kipchoge from Breaking2 documentary.
His running journey started with the trip to and from Primary school, and although it wasn’t for competition, it would begin a storied career in running.
“When I was in Primary School I used to run every day four times about five or six kilometres to and from school. I was always running. You know, the time is limited, so if you don’t run you don’t have enough time.”—Eliud Kipchoge from IAAF
When he’s not at home in Eldoret, Kenya, where his wife and three children reside, he is training at the Global Sports Communication camp in Kaptagat, Kenya, a facility for elite athletes. The facility houses other well-known runners who live and train together in a camp-like setting with two people to a room. Every person there has specific duties assigned to them which helps maintain the grounds, and even Kipchoge has to clean toilets and scrub floors. And according to the NN Running Team’s website, running water was only recently installed.
It’s a simple life, one which Kipchoge embraces. And even though he is a multi-millionaire given his winnings and contracts with Nike and the NN Running Team, his modest lifestyle in a world full of excess is something to celebrate.
He is also known for his charitable work, and in 2018 was presented with the UN person of the year award for “his positive role modelling to the youth to embrace the values of hard work, discipline, focus and dedication to achieve the greatness they are capable of.” His work in spreading awareness of HIV/AIDS was also a factor in the decision.
There is no doubt in my mind he is the all-time best marathoner. And while there are many things we can learn from him about running, how to train or even what it takes to be a world-class athlete, the most important lesson comes from the way he lives his life.
He is the kind of person who could easily become self-centered given his achievements. But Eliud is far from that person. He works hard for what he has achieved but also gives credit to those who have supported him including his coach Patrick Sang and his family, calling them “unsung heroes.”
While more than impressive, what stands out to me about Eliud Kipchoge is none of the records. It’s not the string of wins in the marathon or the dominance he displays when racing. It’s not the title of the world’s greatest marathoner. Because that title doesn’t begin to do him justice.
What I admire the most about him is his nature and his calmness. It’s his attitude and his life outside of running. And it’s the self-discipline and humbleness that so many people lack.
He is the face of humility in times of self-importance and narcissism, and we can learn a lot from how he lives his life—on and off the pavement.
“In life, the idea is to be happy. So I believe in calm, simple, low-profile life. You live simple, you train hard, and live an honest life.”—Eliud Kipchoge from the Breaking 2 documentary.
Initial image – Rich Kenington ~ photos on the run [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]