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What Kipchoge and trail runners have in common

The secret to Eluid Kipchoge's success is standard in the trail running community

Unless you’re living under a rock, or running around some at the Moab 240 this weekend–you’ll likely be glued to a screen for a couple of hours anticipating one of the greatest athletic accomplishments in human history. Eluid Kipchoge, the 2:01:39 marathon world record-holder, will attempt to break two hours. At 2:15 a.m. EST Saturday, Kipchoge will race a 9.6K circuit 4.4 times in Vienna with the world watching.

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So what does this mean for trail, mountain, and ultrarunners? What separates Kipchoge from other athletes isn’t just his lactate threshold and VO2 max. He thinks the most important thing that matters is what happens inside his head. The man runs with his heart and mind. And for many trail runners, practising the power of self-belief happens all the time.

Kipchoge’s obsession with motivational and self-help books isn’t a secret. (His favourite is The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.) In May 2017, when Kipchoge ran 2:00:25 for Nike’s Breaking2 project in Monza, Italy, he knew wholeheartedly that his success is “not about the legs, but it’s about the heart and mind.”

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Believing in yourself sounds as basic as one of those cheesy motivational posters with a mountain on it. But in the book Endure, Canadian runner, scientist, and author Alex Hutchinson explains how integral Kipchoge’s self-belief is to his success. Before Kipchoge ran 26 seconds off a sub-2 marathon, he confidently told a reporter, “The only difference is thinking. You think it’s impossible, I think it’s possible.”

Like Kipchoge, trail, mountain, and ultrarunners are not normal. Almost like breaking two hours in the marathon, trail runners come up with impossible and crazy ideas all the time. In order to see the ideas to fruition, they must believe. A friend texting you to circumnavigate the nearest volcano on foot tomorrow isn’t unheard-of in the trail running community. But in order for the crazy ideas to come to life, we must believe.

Thinking it’s possible won’t replace the training necessary to execute your best. But believing something is possible separates a crazy idea from making it happen. Kipchoge not only believes it is possible, he wants everyone else to believe with him. He has even requested crowds of people to join him on the streets of Vienna on Saturday to cheer and share positive vibes.

Kipchoge also promotes the campaign No Human is Limited. Trail, mountain, and ultrarunners know that limits don’t exist. If they did, something as ridiculous as 200-mile races would be impossible. Whether it’s the terrain, the gain, the distance, or mother nature–trail running isn’t predictable and requires belief. Although Saturday’s specific splits are a bit too calculated for a trail runner, both Kipchoge and trail runners regularly practise the power of belief.

For Kipchoge and trail runners, the best part of a race isn’t the results. Whatever happens on Saturday is just a bonus of the entire training process. Regardless of whether two hours is broken, Kipchoge will likely carry on–training and racing as usual.

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