The act of one man handing a drink to another has never been more talked about.
The act of one man handing a drink to another has never been more talked about. Shortly after breaking the world record for the marathon on Sunday in Berlin, Eliud Kipchoge tweeted four photos, each accompanied by a brief message.
He clapped his hands, hugged his coaches, jogged with the pacemakers who had helped him finish, and then took a sip from a volunteer’s water bottle.
These pictures weren’t picked at random.
Kipchoge, who knocked 30 seconds off the previous world record in 2018 to clock 2:01:09s, wants to recognize and honor those who helped him along the way.
A 56-year-old construction engineer who has been a volunteer at the Berlin Marathon for the past quarter of a century was among them.
Eliud’s water was handed off to Claus Henning-Schulke at each of the 13 checkpoints throughout the 42-kilometer race. He has helped the two-time Olympic gold medalist runner before. He also oversaw Eliud’s initial record-breaking attempt in 2018, when he was just a junior.
It may look like a simple task, but there is more going on behind the scenes than meets the eye. Moreover, Eliud, this generation’s best long-distance runner, not only recognizes but also values this fact.
After the 2018 record, the next day I found him waiting for me at the hotel. He penned a thank-you note to the crowd on his race number, reading, “My world record wouldn’t have happened without you.” Bottle Claus, as he is more well known, told The Indian Express over the phone, “I don’t know whether it’s genuine but it was an extremely wonderful gesture.”
Engineer Claus for almost 30 years, he ran marathons in his youth. Later, he began competing in triathlons, and today, he travels the world over to ride in ultra-distance bicycle competitions. The cameras finally started focusing on him in 2018, but he’s been a volunteer in Berlin for almost twenty years.
He says, “Passing a drink from one man to another has never generated so much interest.” I can’t believe how many people care about me. It was completely unexpected.
A bunch of onlookers yelled “here comes Bottle Cause” as I rode by this year. “They can’t believe I’ll be in Morocco for the next 10 days for a cycling race,” adds Claus.
Santa hasn’t let all the adulation and praise from the big guy go to his head. He also has no plans to leave his current position, which involves managing multimillion-euro projects. He completed the renovation of the Berlin Palace as his final significant undertaking.
I enjoy both my regular job and my sports immensely. Eliud’s accomplishment was the result of countless miles of training. 970 of the 1000 pieces are his own doing, while the other 30 are the result of his coach and the surrounding conditions. But Santa in a bottle is, at most, only a slice,” he explains.
The vase training
At the 2017 Berlin event, Eliud’s team noticed Claus and inquired if he would be interested in joining the squad the following year. Eliud met with Claus in the hotel lobby and gave him very specific instructions about how to hold the bottle and at what height.
There was some lighthearted banter between us. I took a tulip from a vase and held it by its stem. When I asked Eliud how he like to have his bottle passed, he showed me. We did it several times with a vase,” Claus recalls.
Santa is dedicated to his work and never lets up. On Sunday, he rode his bike down the course in preparation to be a station marshal.
So that Kipchoge would be able to find him in the crowd of runners, authorities, and television crew, he was wearing a name tag and had the backlight from his bicycle strapped to his arm.
Once he gave Kipchoge the bottle, he had to pedal to the next station, which was 2.5 kilometers distant, putting his years of triathlon experience to good use.
Professional marathon runners take great care when managing their bottles. The beverage is made by the athlete or their team the day before the race, and then given to the race authorities.
Bottle Santa explains, “No one can go near that room, so I nickname it Fort Knox (one of the most closely guarded military installations) because no one can get in there.” The containers are then stored in locked containers at their designated stations.
There are 13 of these checkpoints, and once you arrive, you have 30 seconds to locate the bottle and occupy your assigned place. When an athlete is getting close, I start yelling their name. I’ll save Eliud two seconds at each station, but you can do the math,” Claus replies.
On a bike, it’s not simple to keep up with the world’s top athletes. In addition to concentration and the ability to make snap judgments, a great level of endurance is required for this position.
Kipchoge’s crew broke the news to Claus at the 22.5 km mark that their leader was passing on the bottle.
“I was about to turn around and ride to the next stop when I spotted Kipchoge. When coaching an athlete, I prefer to keep my gaze fixed on them.”
In a flash of insight, I handed the bottle to him as he came up to me. He emphasizes the importance of paying attention to every detail by saying, “There was some confusion, but delighted everything worked out nicely in the end.”