Eliud Kipchoge captured the attention of the world when he broke the two-hour marathon barrier in October. Whether watching live or through replays and highlights, the Kenyan runner inspired runners all over the world.
For Jon Ornee of Holland, Michigan, it certainly sparked a fire following months of recovery after being hit by a car while cycling in May.
“I was inspired to really double down on getting after things that I love and make the best of this awesome life I’ve got,” Ornee, 38, told Runner’s World. “Once I was able to train again, I decided I wanted to do one big adventure or event every month.”
With a triathlon background, Ornee started with two separate events: a 7.4-mile swim and setting the speed record for cycling across Michigan (205 miles) in September. To round out the running, he thought about various ideas to attempt. Fastest Known Times (FKTs) were his initial thought, but Kipchoge’s run inspired him the most.
“I had thought about doing a relay after [Kipchoge’s] first attempt, Breaking2,” Ornee said. “He makes it look so stinking easy, so smooth and effortless, so I thought it would be fun to do it as a community in 200-meter legs.”
Ornee threw together a website with a sign-up form for the free event on October 27 at a high-school track and let runners select any of the 210-possible, 200-meter legs that added up to a marathon. He sent the site around to his triathlon friends and local running groups. Before he knew it, he had more than 40 runners signed up to run with him, ranging between ages 8 and 55.
Not much was needed with only weeks to prepare. Ornee and his nine volunteers were granted access to Holland’s West Ottawa High School track, including the sound system and scoreboard. The only part of the morning that presented a problem was allowing day-of signups, but that ended up being mostly a good thing when there were a few no shows. In total, there were 45 runners.
“It was a bit of a cluster,” Ornee said. “Throughout the day there was plenty of room for disaster, but we were able to pull it off.”
One by one the runners ran their 200s. Ornee started off every mile—completing 26 total legs. When some miles ended up going sub-4, his recovery between legs was less than he planned for.
Still, the volunteers managed to have all of the runners in the right place at the right times, as each tagged out for the next runner to proceed.
The runners had to pull off an average mile of 4:34 to beat, or at least match, Kipchoge’s time. Those early sub-4 miles paid off as the group cruised to a 1:49:32—an average mile of 4:11.
“We didn’t have too many high schoolers, but those young, fresh legs, they can book it,” Ornee said. “We had a few people drop 26- to 29-second legs. We needed to maintain about a 34-second 200 to stay on track.
“Most the way through, we knew we had it, and it was just awesome to see that time on the big board and just a great group of people out on a Saturday for a couple hours”
When Ornee returned home, he sent the highlights of the day to a few people, including to Kipchoge himself. Ornee said he found an old email that he assumed wouldn’t work, but he sent a note about his team’s effort anyway.
Three days later, he got a short email from the legend.
“Thank you very much and happy to hear from you,” Kipchoge’s email read. “I am glad many people are getting inspired. I wish you well and please be inspired. Regard, Eliud Kipchoge.”
Ornee isn’t sure what’s next on his docket for athletic feats in the future, but he does see the sub-two-hour marathon relay as a fun activity for running communities and groups can do together, and not for a world record.
“What I liked the most was it was just a goofy thing we did,” Ornee said. “We didn’t limit it to the fastest runners. Anyone was welcome to just see how stupid fast Kipchoge’s time really was and to see if we could do it. We had some fast runners, but we just did it for fun, and all you need is a track and maybe 30-plus runners to do it yourself.”
From: Runner’s World US
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