Eliud Kipchoge, 2023 Princess of Asturias Award for Sports | Sports

Eliud Kipchoge (Kapsisiywa, Kenya; 38 years old) has been awarded the Princess of Asturias Award for Sports in the 2023 edition for being a “world benchmark in athletics”, as the jury in charge of its award unanimously announced this Thursday. concession, chaired by Teresa Perales. The Kenyan athlete, Olympic champion in the marathon (2016 and 2020) and world champion in the 5,000 meters (2003), achieved a new world record (2h,1m,09s) in the Berlin Marathon in September 2022, surpassing the one he himself had achieved in 2018. The jury, which announced the ruling in Oviedo, the foundation’s headquarters, also took into consideration the fact that the athlete “develops important social work through the foundation that bears his name” and that promotes “access to early childhood education and environmental protection.”

Running a marathon is facing two hours and more of suffering, pain, the body that says stop, and if sometimes such a burden weighs on those who face 42,195 kilometers, overcoming it also allows you to survive, to freeze in a fleeting instant. all life, feel immortal, stop time to record it in memory forever. “The spirit transports the body, mental strength is the key. I run disconnected from my thoughts”, is the motto of Eliud Kipchoge, the athlete who embodies the marathon race more than anyone in history, and his ascetic spirit and his fine body, born for long-distance running, humanize better than anything the latest technological advances, atomic shoes that lengthen your stride and cushion your steps, and drinks that allow the stomach to absorb all the carbohydrates the body needs to recover, essential in the evolution of marathon times.

“Even the most powerful man needs someone to cut his hair,” Kipchoge sometimes says, reciting an African saying. “I will never say that I am the best in history, nobody can say it.” But there is no greater marathon runner than Eliud Kipchoge. No athlete with more need to face his limits and those of his test. He started out as a 5,000m athlete, and at the age of 18 he surpassed the two greatest of the moment, Kenenisa Bekele and Hicham El Guerruj, in the final of the 2003 World Cup in Paris. Already close to 40, and in his eleventh year as a marathon runner, the Kenyan, double Olympic champion and double world record holder, is recovering from the third defeat of his life in the distance, painful and sad under the Boston rain. He ended up limping, and even his smile had disappeared, which seemed painted on his face, the grimace of a happy runner. No one doubts that he will be great again, unbeatable.

It had only been seven months since he had broken the world record for the second time in Berlin, inevitably bringing it closer to the two-hour barrier (those 2h,1m,09s). Kipchoge is the monk of the marathon, and in Kaptagat, in the Rift Valley, at 2,000 meters, he has his own monastery. He leads a life of a mystical hermit. He gets up earlier than anyone. He runs more than anyone. He goes to bed before anyone else. He gets up at five in the morning. He eats porridge for breakfast. Then he goes for a run and it’s his Nirvana. Clear, clean mind, just focused on the race.

He has run 20 marathons. He has won 17 (ten of them, majors: Chicago, 2014; London 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2019; Berlin, 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2022, and Tokyo, 2022). Only Boston and New York are missing to get a grand slam impossible, and, furthermore, he ran two unofficial marathons organized for him in order to quench his thirst for the impossible, since time is pressing, and for humanity, so that we all continue to think that progress has no limits. It was his two assaults at two hours. At the Monza circuit, in 2017, he was close, 2h, 25s. In the second, he got it. It was in the Prater in Vienna, on October 12, 2019, a car generating slipstream and shooting a green beam in front of it, the light that sets the pace, 2m, 51s per kilometer, 17.2s per 100 meters, without rest , and several athletes taking turns as hares, à la carte supplies, latest model sneakers, and a mark of 1h, 59m, 40s.

“I know that the marathon is very hard physically, but if the spirit is good, so are the legs, the muscles, the heart. And I don’t know my limits.” And when they ask him what drives him to keep running, he, who has won everything, does not talk about his motivation, but about his mission. “My motivation is to inspire others, to motivate all the young people,” he says. “I run for my family and for the people. Sport unites everyone. That’s what really motivates me.” He monk Kenyan lover of aphorisms, of the simple life, and his pose and zen smile of a Buddhist abbot, or almost of the Dalai Lama, follows the path of the one who would be the greatest if he had not been born, the Ethiopian Abebe Bikila, Olympic champion in Rome 60 running on the uneven cobblestones of the Italian capital in the light of torches with bare feet up to the Arch of Constantine, and then, four more years, in Tokyo 64, he repeated his victory, already with sneakers, a pair of Onitsuka Tiger, and he broke the world record again (2h,12m,11s). The image of purity, the sublimation of athletics that moved so many, and its memory persists in the legs of its neighbor to the south, Olympic champion in Rio 2016 and in Tokyo, too, in the 2020 Games marathon, which will played in Sapporo in 2021.

“I’ve been to the moon, and I’ve come back,” said Kipchoge, an explorer in the wild, untouched territory of the human body, after coming down from two hours in Vienna. “The last 200 meters, the last 30s, have been the best moment of my life, I was making history. I am a happy man.” Freezing life in an instant, he had achieved immortality.

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