Lasers & Tempo Trainers - What Can We Learn From Eliud Kipchoge's Stunning Sub 2-hr Marathon?

#Nohumanislimited is the motto of Kenyan born Eliud Kipchoge, who most definitely pushed himself to the limit to become the first man in history to run a sub 2 hour marathon. Last weekend in Vienna, the 34 year old completed the marathon in a jaw dropping time of 1hr 59mins 40.2s, smashing the 2 hour barrier! But what was the key to his stunning achievement?

Exercise Physiologist Dr Michael Joyner first predicted that a sub 2 hour marathon was possible in his 1991 research paper. Using statistical models he anticipated that it was possible to complete a marathon in 1hr 57mins 58s in perfect conditions. For over 25 years, long distance athletes edged ever closer to this 2 hour mark, with Eliud's first direct attempt in 2018 setting 2hr 01min 39s, but until this week no one has achieved a sub 2 hour time.

But what can we learn From Eliud's stunning performance to maximise our own personal sporting endeavours - including your own swimming?

The one thing we would highlight was how incredibly well *paced* his run was. With every km (but the last) set between 2mins 48s and 2mins 52s. His run was so well paced that he had a little left in the tank to complete the final km in 2mins 40s and complete the final 400m in 65s! 

With all his experience, discipline and talent, we have no doubt that Eliud has excellent pace judgement in his own right but just to make absolutely sure of perfect pacing, you might have noticed that the electric pace vehicle shone a laser on the road to set a precise running speed:

This laser set an exact pace of 1:59:50 to follow (giving him 10 seconds spare in case he stumbled on the run-in to the finish).

Pacing isn't "sexy" like a cool pair of running shoes or a fancy swim-skin but the fact is that every world record in any distance event has been set using even pacing or a slight negative split, where the second half is running slightly quicker than the first. If you want your best times in training or in races then you too should aim for precise pacing - it's absolutely essential.

So good pacing is important but what can you use as a guide if you don't have a budget running into millions giving you laser guiding technology? Actually in pool swimming it's really easy to achieve the same thing as the lasers gave Eliud - significantly easier than in running, cycling or almost any other endurance sport.

The solution is a Finis Tempo Trainer Pro. This small yellow beeper sits under your cap and sets a perfectly even pace for you to swim:

Set it and pop it under your cap by your ear!
Get yours here:

If you are in a 25m pool and want to swim at 2 minutes per 100m (which could be your own personal equivalent of 2 hour marathon pace!) then you set the Tempo Trainer to beep every 30 seconds. Swim at 1:30 /100m? Easy, program it to 22.5 seconds.

Using it is a cinch: Wait for the beep, start swimming and pace your effort so you turn and push off the wall when the beep goes. The first time you use one you'll immediately realise how easy it is to go off too fast and then consequently how hard it is to stay with beeper over longer distances! If Eliud had done that he would have fallen well short of the record with all the world's media watching him.

The important thing to appreciate with a Tempo Trainer Pro is that it gives you real time feedback as you swim. Reviewing your splits back retrospectively on your watch is far less valuable as it's way too late to do anything about your pacing after the session!

Beneficial To Training Not Just Racing

Here's another thing - although pacing is super important in races for best performance, it's arguably even more important in training. That's because well paced training sets give you much more fitness improvements than sets where you start too fast and then tail off.

This is why we use Tempo Trainer Pros so extensively at Swim Smooth. In the SS Guru (our virtual swim coach) we determine the pace you should be swimming for any given training session based on your own individual level of fitness at that moment in time. Then the Guru tells you the number to put in the Tempo Trainer to achieve this pace. Place it under your swimming cap and voila!, you have pacing as good as Eliud Kipchoge:

You can think of this system like a virtual training partner, not only does it set the pace for you but it keeps you honest and motivated throughout the swim - genius!

For pacing as good as Eliud Kipchoge, add the Finis Tempo Trainer to your swim bag now and follow one of our pacing sessions on the Guru to nail your pacing for your next swim.

Swim Smooth!


skillfulllapin said...

I enjoyed using the tempo fini and found it very useful to improve my pacing. However i make some reservations regarding it's reliability: this device breaks very easily, sometimes for no apparent reasons. I bought 2 in the space of 1 year and half at a price tag of around 40 euros which I find quite expensive as not much technology or engineering is put inside this device.

WxBoy said...

Another new tool to achieve the same thing is the FORM goggles. They are more expensive ($200 US) but use a heads-up display in one eye to show you a set of metrics that you choose such as time, stroke rate, etc. I've found them to be very helpful.

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