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Kenyan long-distance runner Eliud Kipchoge on Saturday became the first person to run a marathon in less than two hours, blowing through the barrier by nearly 20 seconds in a special event in Vienna.

With thousands cheering him on, Kipchoge completed the 26.2-mile challenge in 1 hour, 59 minutes and 40 seconds.

As he crossed the finish line, the 34-year-old pounded his palms on his chest and smiled brightly. He threw his arms around his wife, who was waiting for him at the end, then let a throng of supporters hoist him into the air.

“I’m the happiest man,” said Kipchoge, a Kenyan flag draped over his shoulders. “No human is limited. You can do it.”

Despite being the fastest marathon ever recorded, Kipchoge’s time won’t count as an official world record because the run didn’t take place in an open event. The challenge, backed by the British chemical company Ineos, was held on a closed 6-mile course in a park in the Austrian capital, and Kipchoge was aided in the run by more than three-dozen pacemakers who rotated in and out several at a time throughout the race.

But the milestone in athletic achievement, long considered impossible, reverberated around the world Saturday morning. In Eldoret, Kenya, where Kipchoge lives with his wife and three children, a massive crowd danced and cheered in the street in celebration of their hometown hero’s accomplishment.

Kipchoge set an official marathon world record in Berlin in 2018, completing the race in 2 hours, 1 minute and 39 seconds. That record still stands.

This is his second attempt to break the two-hour mark. His first came in 2017 in a closed run in Monza, Italy, but he fell short by 26 seconds.

As his run Saturday unfolded, Kipchoge appeared poised to shatter the barrier, clocking an even pace kilometer by kilometer. With six kilometers to go, he was still 10 seconds inside his target time, the BBC reported.

As Kipchoge entered his last few hundred meters, the pacemakers dropped off and Kipchoge started flashing thumbs-up to the crowd.

In crossing the two-hour threshold, Kipchoge joins the ranks of British runner Roger Bannister, who made history in 1954 when he became the first person to run a mile in less than 4 minutes — an achievement which, like Kipchoge’s, was once viewed as unattainable.

Credit: The Washington Post