At 6pm Friday evening, the group of 41 pacemakers providing the supporting cast for Eliud Kipchoge’s sub-two hour marathon assembled at the Marriott Courtyard Hotel here.
This was for the final brief ahead of Saturday’s eagerly-anticipated INEOS 1:59 Challenge that will be run from 8.15am (9.15am Kenyan time) at The Prater Park, Vienna’s biggest public park.
They will run in groups of seven, five ahead of Kipchoge in a ‘V’ formation, and two behind the Olympic champion to dictate the pace for him while also protecting him from the wind.
Ahead of the pack will be a zero-emission Audi E-tron car, the latest from the German manufacturer in the electric car market, which will beam green laser lights onto the tarmac to guide the runners to stick to the pace agreed on, which is two minutes and 50 seconds per kilometre.
Just to make sure the car’s pace is spot-on, the driver has been asked to use the cruise control facility that will ensure the steady pace. Each runner will have a chip fitted in his shoe, and with car’s cruise control not 100 perfect efficient, organisers have thrown in transponders at every kilometre to ensure the correct pace is maintained, with a back-up car at the ready, just in case.
“The role of the pacemakers is to make Eliud maintain the pace and also to prevent him from the wind,” Augustine Choge, one of the 41 enlisted pacemakers explained on Friday. “The technical team has worked on various simulations and have come up with a formation called the ‘V’ formation.
“This formation will have five athletes in front of Kipchoge and two behind him.
“These athletes are crucial to help Eliud maintain the pace, and the laser car will be controlling this pace.
“The pace that has been agreed on is two minutes and 50 seconds for each kilometre for the entire 42 kilometres which will make Eliud run under two hours, that’s one minute, 59 seconds.
Different pacemakers will cover different distances. “At first, we shall have some doing three kilometres then the rest will do about five kilometres,” explains Choge, the 2006 Commonwealth Games 5,000 metres champion and former world junior champion in the 3,000 metres and cross country.
“After every 4.8 kilometres, there will be new pacemakers coming in and the ones who are in going out. But the pacemakers behind Eliud will be doing 9.8 kilometres, which is a full lap on this course. The rest will be doing half a lap, which is 4.8 kilometres.
The five pacemakers in front of Kipchoge will have a “captain”, whose strides Kipchoge will follow, with Bernard Lagat the starting captain when the race is flagged off.
“Those running on the left side will drop off on the left side and those running on the right will drop off on the right side,” explains Choge.
“After the four pacemakers have dropped and four new ones come in, the captain will drop off after a few metres later and a new one joins in,” he adds.
In all, there are 41 pacemakers categorised in the different groups and drawn from different nationalities.