In the first part of our series, we explored Eliud Kipchoge’s physical training for his sub 2-hour marathon attempt on October 12, 2019, in Austria (weather permitting). For many everyday marathoners, this is solely the focus of their training.
But there are two other equally important parts– mental training and nutritional fueling. Today we’ll take a brief look at how Kipchoge rounds out his training by preparing his mind and body.
As any runner can attest to, long-distance running is mentally tough. With each passing kilometre, the body screams louder and louder for you to stop.
This is no different at the elite level; Kipchoge has previously mentioned the importance of mindset, telling the BBC that “the mind is what drives a human being”. Throughout training, Kipchoge internalizes his aims as a set of true beliefs.
As a species, we are prone to doubt ourselves in the face of lofty goals. We say “I may be able to do this…” instead of “I am going to do this…”, perhaps to soften the blow of not quite hitting the mark.
But Kipchoge goes the other way. It is important for him to cement his goal as something he truly believes himself capable of. It’s this confidence, along with a focus on a single, achievable goal, that carries him through the pain and towards the finish line (usually at a faster speed than he started too– Kipchoge ran a negative split in Berlin).
In sub-Saharan Africa, starch-based foods like Ugali and vegetables are very popular.
Ugali is a cornmeal porridge, coming in huge servings at camp. This means meals primarily consist of fresh and healthy sources of carbohydrates, fiber and minerals.
Running the distances Kipchoge does each week throughout training requires a huge amount of energy, so a carbohydrate-heavy diet is essential.
Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose and delivered to the body’s cells. There, in combination with oxygen, energy is created through a process called cellular respiration.
The rate at which carbohydrates can be broken down offers another advantage for athletes like Kipchoge. Simple sugars, like those found in running gels and energy drinks, are easily broken down– releasing their energy quickly to great effect. Kipchoge is known to consume Maurten’s Hydrogels throughout a race for this exact purpose. The sugars in the gels are broken down by the body within the hour without any gastro side-effects– helping Kipchoge to quickly refuel within a race.
Meanwhile, complex carbohydrates in foods like Ugali, oats and rice, are broken down slowly, releasing energy into the body over a longer period.
Both have a role to play, which is why athletes will carefully “load” their bodies with sources of complex carbohydrates leading up to a race, and then top-off with faster-acting sources during the run.
Eliud Kipchoge’s approach to marathon training is a classic case of a whole greater than the sum of its parts.
For the length of training, he lives a simple life; focusing on working hard, eating right, resting plenty, and believing in himself.
It requires an individual with incredible dedication and desire to not deviate from this process, despite having already achieved so much, and instead push forward to break new barriers.
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