“To Burn At A Distance, Or To Freeze Nearby” Edition: Of Eliud Kipchoge, And A Nearly 2:00 Marathon…

My grandfather (an Irish distance runner, in his day — but long passed, into the canyons of eternity, now) used to talk reverently — almost mystically — about Roger Bannister’s four minute mile, achieved exactly 63 years ago, this morning (May 6, 1954). And I awoke this early morning, thinking of just that feat. . . .

As is increasingly the case — as I myself age — I begin to think that there are fewer and fewer pure coincidences, in life. That history runs as a river, with a purposeful echo, in her deep but truly luminous canyons. [Of course, Nike presciently staged this latest event, mindful of the significance of the date — but you get the idea — it is poetic license — smile. . . .]

So, just a few hours ago, somewhere in Italy, Eliud Kipchoge very narrowly missed eclipsing an obstacle that holds all the wonder (for this generation) that the four minute mile held for that one: the two hour marathon barrier. While 25 seconds is only about one third of one per cent of an improvement — in the overall time (at 2 hours). . . it is as though shaving those last 25 seconds, is like a return journey from Saturn’s rings — in a single masted sloop. It just may take a bit. Thus the title, above — as a more erudite version of “so close, but yet so far.” Here is ESPN on it all:

. . . .Eliud Kipchoge was seconds from making history Saturday, but the Olympic champion finished just short of becoming the first person to run a marathon in less than two hours.

Kipchoge ran the 26.2 miles in 2 hours, 25 seconds, smashing Dennis Kimetto’s world mark of 2:02:57 and raising hopes that one of the most famous sports barriers can be broken.

We are human,” Kipchoge said. “I am happy that I’ve reduced by 2 1/2 minutes the world record. The wall is just 25 seconds away. . . .”

“Today, millions of people around the world watched as running history was written. At Breaking2, Eliud Kipchoge ran 26.2 miles faster than any human ever. … This achievement represents more than a race. It’s a moment of global inspiration that will encourage every athlete, in every community, to push the limits of their potential.”

Two-time Boston Marathon winner Lelisa Desisa, from Ethiopia, and Eritrean half-marathon world-record holder Zersenay Tadese also were part of the Breaking2 project, which started at 5:45 a.m. local time, but they finished well off the pace.

Desisa was dropped after 50 minutes, with Tadese falling back shortly afterward. The duo still completed the 17.5 laps of the 1.5-mile Monza track with Tadese shaving nearly four minutes off his personal best with a time of 2:06:51. Desisa finished in 2:14:10.

That left just Kipchoge chasing the landmark time.

He continued in his trademark relaxed style and passed the halfway mark in 59:54, but his average pace of 4:36 per mile was just not enough, despite his final sprint to the tape. . . .

So we will burn at distance, just a little while longer, it seems. [I should mention that his time was a new world record. And “Guardians 2” was highly entertaining, by the way.]

Travel well one and all — but do travel light — as we need not live high, to live. . . well. . . and sail on, Gramps!

नमस्ते

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