Kenyan Olympic marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge participated in the first exclusive athlete webinar hosted by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on 12 May, during which he advised athletes on how to #StayStrong and think positively during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Be patient, think positive and respect the authorities’ directives”: this was the main message given by Eliud during the first of a series of webinars that, through the voice of athletes and experts, complement the resources available on Athlete365 to empower and support the athlete community.
The second webinar took place today with Olympic downhill champion Aksel Lund Svindal, and the next one is scheduled on 16 June with Dr Claudia Reardon, a member of the IOC Working Group on Mental Health.
All the details can be found on Athlete365.
A three-time Olympian and world record holder
World record-holder and Olympic champion in the marathon, the 35-year-old Kenyan superstar made history in October 2019 in Vienna (Austria) by running the first sub-two-hour marathon.
Previously, after becoming 5,000m world champion in 2003, he won two Olympic medals at Athens 2004 (bronze) and Beijing 2008 (silver), before reaching the top of the podium at Rio 2016 with a dominant performance, known as the largest margin of victory at the Games for 44 years.
Eliud was gearing up for Tokyo 2020 to defend his marathon title this summer before the coronavirus pandemic struck.
Accepting the challenge and helping athletes
“When the pandemic started, personally I was in shock,” Eliud explained during the webinar. “Some events were postponed, including the London Marathon and the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, followed by a general lockdown in Kenya.”
“I said to myself that this is a big challenge, but I am a marathoner, and the marathon is like life,” he continued. “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.”
I am looking forward to race again, to share the starting line with thousands of runners and run as fast as I can. But the health of the world is always top priority, so if we come together and follow the directives we can beat this pandemic. pic.twitter.com/LZaGHDQEYl— Eliud Kipchoge - EGH🇰🇪 (@EliudKipchoge) May 13, 2020
Responding to questions about his training that came through during the webinar, moderated by Olympian and broadcaster Jeanette Kwakye, Eliud revealed that he has maintained a strict training regime during lockdown. He has adjusted his programme to focus more on strength work and long runs rather than speed and tactics, as he continues to communicate with his coach, Patrick Sang, via WhatsApp.
Showcasing the power of athletes to be positive role models during this global health crisis, Eliud revealed that he has been working with the Kenyan government and enlisting his sponsors to deliver food packages to lower-level athletes in Kenya, who cannot earn any revenue by participating in races abroad.
The lessons learned
Many questions came in from participants during the half-hour webinar about topics such as nutrition and mental strength, and also about the lessons Eliud has learned from living in lockdown.
“Lesson number one is that we can travel the whole world, but the most important thing is your family,” he responded. “You need to go back to your family and take care of your family. That’s one thing that lockdown has reminded me. They are still my motivation to go out at 5 a.m. for a run.”
“Secondly, we need to be patient. And thirdly, we need to respect the directives of our local governments, and of the whole world. Altogether, if we think positive then we can beat COVID-19 and the world will return to normal.”
To conclude the webinar, Eliud delivered his message to the Athlete365 community: “My advice is simple: plan well, prepare well, and set your priorities right. Let’s think positive and live in a positive way.”