Only 25 seconds separate Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge from a feat that no other athlete has achieved: running a marathon in less than two hours.
The holder of the world record with a time of 2:01:39 hours, set in Berlin on Sept. 16, 2018, Kipchoge completed 42km (26mi) on Italy's Monza motor-racing circuit in 2017 in 2:25.
But that time did not count officially under the standards of the International Association of Athletics Federations.
The 34-year-old is currently training for the INEOS 1:59 Challenge, scheduled for October at Prater Park in Vienna.
Kipchoge says a sub-two-hour marathon is achievable, though most experts see it as impossible, and he sees the implications as going far beyond breaking a record.
"It's more important," Kipchoge said during a telephone interview from the NN Running team's training facility in the northern Kenyan city of Kaptagat.
"This is about history. It's about leaving a legacy. It's about inspiring people. It will mean a lot when I run under two hours. My main message to the 7.5 billion people in the world is that no human is limited," he said.
Looking back on his effort at Monza, Kipchoge said: "I realized with one kilometer to go that I was a bit slow, I tried to adjust but it wasn't possible."
"I was like a boxer who is going in the ring and doesn't know what will happen," the Olympic gold medalist said, adding that the difference for him now ahead of the INEOS event is better "mental preparation."
"Nothing much has changed, the training is the same," Kipchoge said. "What has changed is the mental preparation. I have a free mind and I'm ready to go. I'm really enjoying the experience."
"This time I'm prepared, and I know what will happen," he said.
Those who know Kipchoge, who was just 18 when he won the World Championship in Paris, describe him as a man of clear ideas, a master of tactics and technique, and tenacious to a fault: qualities that allow him to remain at his peak 16 years later.
"Being the fastest marathoner on the world means a lot, means that you have to work a lot and set your priorities right," he says.
Kipchoge, who rises every day at 5.45 am to train, sees his family only on weekends, as he spends the week with his NN Running teammates at the training camp.
"A marathon is no longer an individual event. The team is there and I'll break the two-hour barrier with the help of the pacemakers," Kipchoge said.
He likens running a marathon in under two hours to the scaling of Mt. Everest in 1953 and to the Apollo moon landing of 1969.
"This is about history and making a mark in sport. It's like the first man to go to the moon, I will be the first man to run under two hours, this is crucial," Kipchoge says.
"Some people believe it is impossible," he says. "I respect their views, they should respect mine. My team and I believe it is possible. We will prove them wrong."
"After doing it, many athletes will believe for themselves that it is possible. I don't know what time is the limit, I don't have any limits. But my target is 1:59," the runner says. EFE