A week ago in Vienna, Austria, the King of the road, Eliud Kipchoge, broke the two-hour barrier for the marathon, finishing the race in one hour 59 minutes and 40 seconds. The feat was remarkable by all standards.
The pace at which Kipchoge ran from start to finish was a blistering two-minutes 50 seconds (2:50) per kilometre. That would translate to about 21 kilometres per hour. To put it in perspective, Kipchoge ran 100 metres in about 17 seconds and did it 422 times in a row.
The feat by Kipchoge in Vienna was streamed live, during the event by nearly 800,000 people. That feed has now attracted over five million views. Over 49 broadcasters aired the INEOS159 Challenge Live in over 200 territories (www.ineos159challenge.com) reaching an estimated 500 million viewers. The Vienna authorities estimated that about 120,000 people watched the event along the route at The Prater. Further news coverage of the challenge has been aired 9,344 times across 1,081 TV channels across the globe. Another 9,789 press articles have been published about the Challenge with a potential readership of 2.2 billion (www.ineos159challenge.com).
The INEOS159 Challenge received accolades from the likes of former US President Barack Obama, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta and SA President Cyril Ramaphosa. Many sporting personalities from across diverse disciplines celebrated Kipchoge and what he had achieved.
In golf, Thomas Pieters emulated Kipchoge by playing his final 18-holes of the Italian Open in one hour 59 minutes. Pieters was first off as a single player in the final round of the Italian Open at the Olgiata Golf Club in Rome and he opted to jog between his shots, burning 1,300 calories in the process and returning a score of even-par 71 (www.golfdigest.com).
The European Tour and the USPGA Tour have been grappling with ‘slow play’ and many golf detractors have cited the time required to complete a round of golf as one of the major factors as to why younger people do not take up the sport. Unfortunately the top golf professionals have not set an excellent example. In 2018 and at Torrey Pines, JB Holmes took four minutes 10 seconds to hit his second shot on the final hole (www.golfweek.com). Kevin Na was also criticised online for taking 90 seconds plus to tap in a short putt.
In 2016, Na played the final round of the Tour Championship as a single and also completed his round in under hours.
In 2017, Wesley Bryan returned a score of 69 in the final round of the BMW Championship in one hour and 28 minutes (www.golfdigest.com). Is this the record for the fastest 18-holes in an official PGA Tour event?
Recently, during the Solheim Cup, the ladies set new ‘slow-play’ records — the first four ball match was reported to have taken five hours and 11 minutes to play 16 holes! Former British Open Champion, Paul Lawrie who was at Gleneagles for the Solheim Cup described the pace of play as “absolutely brutally slow.” The US team captain Juli Inkster said “it is painfully slow out there” and her opposite number European Captain Catriona Matthew added: “Obviously that back nine this afternoon did get pretty slow.”
Commenting on the Solheim Cup, Rory McIlroy said: “I don't want to single out particular people, but I watched a lot of the Solheim Cup at the weekend, and it was really slow. As much as you want to sit there and watch and support the European girls, like it's just hard not to get frustrated with it.”
Let me close with a quote from Ben Dirs, writing for CNN: “There are times when watching golf is similar to watching a wildlife documentary; so elaborate are some of the modern players' pre-shot routines, and so lurid the outfits, they resemble birds of paradise, in the full throes of courtship. But what you don't find yourself shouting over the soothing tones of David Attenborough is: "Hurry up and hit the damn ball!”
Kipchoge has proved that it can be done in under two hours, so has Thomas Pieters, let’s follow suit.