One Extraordinary New World Record.
Eliud Kipchoge, an extremely successful and accomplished runner, completely smashed the marathon world record recently. 78 seconds – that was the margin that Kipchoge shaved off the previous record to set the new time of two hours, one minute and 39 seconds (Church, 2018). The average speed of this record-setting performance was sub-3-minute kilometres. To keep that pace for 42km is amazing and showcases the elite level and extraordinary aerobic capacity of this Kenyan man.
With such an improvement on the previous world record, the long debate surrounding the development of athletes in becoming faster, fitter, stronger and better has once again come to the forefront. I believe that the level of athleticism and performance across elite sport has definitely improved beyond imagination and expectation. People may be genetically faster and stronger however, the primary reasons that I believe contributed to this are the development of the sport and exercise science industry and the recognition of the importance of selection of athletes (Loria, 2016).
Sport science has become one of the fastest growing industries over the past few decades. The development in technology, equipment, technique identification and modification, training regimes, pure knowledge and the understanding of the capabilities of the human body, have allowed athletes to improve their skills and achieve things that have never been achieved under the best possible conditions (Loria, 2016; Epstein, 2014). These factors are partially responsible for athletes becoming faster, fitter, stronger and ultimately, better (Loria, 2016). Kipchoge would undoubtedly not have been able to smash the marathon world record without sport science involved in one or more aspects of both his short- and long-term preparation.
With regards to the selection of athletes, sports have recognised that different body shapes and types are stronger in different sports (Epstein, 2014). For example, elite gymnasts tend to be very small to allow for the strength to weight ratio required in that sport, where swimmers tend to be on the taller side, which helps them to propel themselves through the water (Loria, 2016; Epstein, 2014). In the case of marathon runners and Eliud Kipchoge, the athletes tend to be extremely lean and most importantly, have an aerobic and VO2 capacity significantly above average. Therefore, the selection of athletes somewhat based on specific traits has allowed for special genetic abilities to be exploited and developed further to increase performance.
As the sport science industry continues to advance, aspects of elite sport such as technology, training, biomechanics and equipment, will progress and increase in importance in the development of ‘freak’ athletes. With humanity also becoming genetically faster and stronger, athletes have and will continue to be better and improve sporting performances and break records, shown by Eliud Kipchoge in his world-record-breaking run in Berlin. As the catchphrase of Nike’s campaign centred around Kipchoge states, “It’s only crazy until you do it” (Nike, 2018).
Church, B. (2018). How Eliud Kipchoge smashed the marathon world record. Retrieved from https://edition.cnn.com/2018/09/17/sport/eliud-kipchoge-marathon-world-record-spt-intl/index.html
Loria, K. (2016). People are stronger and faster than ever before, but the reason why isn’t what you think. Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com/olympics-athletics-sports-performance-history-world-records-2016-8?IR=T
Epstein, D. (2014). Are athletes really getting faster, better, stronger? [Video file]. Retrieved from https://tedsummaries.com/2014/05/03/david-epstein-are-athletes-really-getting-faster-better-stronger/
Nike. (2018, September 16). Yesterday, 2:01:39 seemed crazy, today it’s the marathon world record [Twitter post]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/nike/status/1041279757378187264