Nairobi: World marathon record holder Eliud Kipchoge has likened the struggle athletes are enduring during the COVID-19 pandemic to running a marathon on an uphill course.
Kipchoge, who plans to run a course record in the London Marathon in October, said he has maintained a strict training program despite doing it alone at home, reports Xinhua news agency.
The Olympic marathon champion, who has not lost a single race since 2013, when he was beaten by then-world record holder Wilson Kipsang in Berlin, said he is keen to defend his titles in London and at the Tokyo Olympics.
However, he said athletes must become innovative to overcome the challenges caused by the coronavirus.
“I’m a marathoner, and the marathon is like life,” Kipchoge said on Sunday from Eldoret. “We have many courses in the world: flat courses, uphill and downhill, and this period of COVID-19 is like an uphill course, where we need to live in a slow way, in a positive way, in order to finish the race well.”
Kipchoge said while he misses group training, he has adjusted his program to focus more on strength work and long runs rather than speed and tactics.
Kipchoge has been on the frontline to help athletes in vulnerable positions. He has partnered with the Kenyan government and enlisting the support of his sponsors to deliver food packages to lower-level athletes in the country, to give them the fuel required to continue their training and help their families.
“Our country right now is total upside down,” Kipchoge said. He has proved the power of sport to be a role model when needed most.
“We have many athletes in Kenya, and for 80 per cent of them, is participating in races in Europe, America, Asia and Oceania regions for financial means. That’s what they were relying on. So last week, we provided about 70 athletes from five counties in Kenya with food for the whole month,” said Kipchoge.
However, despite the hunger to return to competition, Kipchoge advised athletes to stay strong and remain positive as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.