Flip through sports newspaper pages in big cities in Europe and America nowadays.
And you are taken on a mental flight straight back to Kenya – Nandi County in particular, where world marathon record holder Eliud Kipchoge was born and bred.
Kipchoge dominates headlines across the globe as he prepares for Ineos 1:59 Challenge in Vienna, Austria, on October 12.
Organisers have set an eight-day window (up to October 20) to pick the day when the weather conditions would be ideal for him to attempt a sub-two-hour marathon.
Success in athletics often demands a steady state of mind and a fighting spirit. But for Kipchoge, the sport has crossed these lines to become something held together by bloodlines.
Bravery and determination
He says: “I am a Kenyan. I come from Rift Valley. I am Kalenjin and a Nandi in particular. In Nandi, I come from Talai clan.”
Kipchoge’s bravery and determination in marathons springs up a cocktail of history and coincidence within his Talai clan, which is known for heroism and bravery in Kalenjin land.
On October 19, 1905 Koitalel Arap Samoei, one of his clansmen and the supreme chief of the Nandi, was shot death by British colonialist Richard Meinertzhagen in what ended the Nandi resistance.
And just few days before Samoei’s anniversary (October 19), Kipchoge hopes to re-write history -and inspire generations again.
“In our Talai clan, we have five households, the Samoei household is among them. We are taught never to chase two rabbits. We are simply instructed not to multi task.
“Winning a race is not about the physical strength; winning is in the mind.
“The challenge in Vienna is like stepping on the moon, going up the tallest mountain and even going to the middle of the ocean. I am heading to race a more experienced athlete,” said Kipchoge.
He set an impressive 2:00.25 mark in the Breaking Two project on the Formula One racetrack in Monza, Italy, in 2017.
“I had a nice experience in Monza. I have changed a little bit in my training. I do more physical exercises. I have not changed my diet,” he said.
Last year, the 34-year-old Kipchoge went ahead to break the world record after clocking 2:01:39 in Berlin Marathon.
“I have learned from the mistakes I made in my first sub-2 race in Monza. This time, I am mentally prepared for the event and have no doubts that I will be able to make history. I have had three months of hard training and I believe in myself and my team that we will break two-hour mark. I think they believe in themselves too,” he said.
With pacemakers drawn from across the world, organisers held a dry run at Vienna’s Prater last week on the course.
The 16 pacemakers include Augustine Choge, Victor Chumo of Kenya, Australian duo of Jack Rayner and Brett Robinson. Also in the list are Norway’s siblings in Henrik, Filip and Jakob Ingebrigtsen and former Kenyan Bernard Lagat of USA.
“The quality of pacemakers is incredible, the whole world is represented and that’s why the race is very important. The rehearsal was hugely successful. I hope to inspire around three billion people worldwide and show that no human is limited.
“Pacesetters are just like kidneys, you can’t survive without them. It’s quite inspiring running behind a human being than behind a car.
“As a sportsman, you must accept that life is about continuous improvement in small bits until you get to the destination. There is no short cut at all,” he said.
Kipchoge will compete in ZoomX Vaporfly Next% shoes in Vienna and not the Nike Vaporfly 4% he used while breaking the world record in Berlin last year. “The ZoomX Vaporfly is a light and nice shoe,” he said.
But Kipchoge knows little about the challenge that lie ahead. “I am heading to Vienna with an open mind. I am just like a young boxer heading into the ring not knowing what to expect. You are not sure whether you will land into a knock-out in the first round or you will head to the 12 rounds. It is not that easy,” he said.
But Kipchoge is an avid reader and always chooses the right book for the right task to get into the right frame of mind and that will come handy before the task in Vienna.
In 2017, he read Imitation is Limitation and Impossible is Possible by American author John Mason.
As he prepared to attack the world record at the Berlin Marathon last year, he read Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, the co-founder of Nike, the American sports apparel that kits him.
He is now reading 11 Life Lessons from Nelson Mandela by Ndaba Mandela, the late former President’s grandson.
“These books help me get the right frame of mind as I prepare for tough challenges,” he said.
Kipchoge, the last born in a family of four children, started running on the paths in his village. He’s coached by his neighbour Patrick Sang, the 1992 Olympic 3,000m steeplechase silver medalist.
“Patrick is a friend and a mentor. He changed my life,” Kipchoge said.
Kipchoge is fan of tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams. He is a father of three. His wife, Grace Sugut, said Kipchoge loves ugali, traditional vegetables and mursik.
“I have three children. My first born is in Standard Seven and they are motivating me to attain the feat. They are waiting to watch me,” he said.
Kipchoge says he picked some investment ideas from Shoe dog: “It’s a very encouraging book. You get to know how you can grow a small business idea into a big enterprise.”
“As an athlete, I believe that you must invest once you start earning and ensure you save your earnings. As much as there is the allure of money, run for the sport and the money will follow,” he said.
He engages in tea and dairy farming and has invested in real estate. “I am not a large scale farmer but I love real estate. It’s not so demanding,” said Kipchoge, who is a brand ambassador for vehicle manufacturing dealer Isuzu East Africa.