For years, Claus-Henning Schulke has earned his living as a project manager for a Berlin based construction company. However, his life drastically changed on September 16, 2018 when he assisted Eliud Kipchoge set a new marathon world record.
Meet the volunteer who helped Kipchoge set a new record
Kipchoge describes him as his hero
On that beautiful Sunday morning, people from across the world gathered around their TV sets in anticipation of greatness. It was clear, Kipchoge was on track to make history. The weather was perfect and the course was impeccable.
Since 1998 Schulke has volunteered at the Berlin Marathon. His job was simple but crucial, provide the necessary assistance of the elite marathon runners in obtaining their in race fluids.
When completing prolonged periods of exercise, a prime example being a marathon, your body temperature increases and causes you to sweat. When sweating, fluid and electrolytes are lost and if continued, dehydration can occur.
Why dehydration is deadly
Consequently, dehydration which can occur from as minimal of a 2% fluid loss can result in early fatigue, reduced cognition and a further increase in body temperature and heart rate, all affecting your performance.
These fluids - full of a blend of water, carbohydrates, and often energy bars, are critical to the success of these elite athletes. Each bottle is uniquely blended for each athlete and their fueling needs to perform at the highest possible capacity.
To run a world record marathon time of 2 hours 1 minute 39 seconds, Kipchoge had to run a robust 2 minute 52 second – 2:55 kilometre pace for 42 kilometres, in short, every second counts.
Days before the race, Schulke met with Kipchoge and his manager to discuss on the mechanics of how to hand the bottle to Kipchoge in an effective and meticulous manner that would not hamper Kipchoge's pace.
As the race started, the plan would be for Kipchoge to receive a refueling drink from Schulke at 13 different locations on the course.
It is not as easy as it sounds, since Kipchoge was travelling at a speed of 20 kilometres per hour. Schulke was forced to pedal his bike to a station, wait for Kipchoge, hand him the bottle, then hop back on his bike and beat Kipchoge to the next station.
For the average man, the task seemed arduous and boring but not for Schulke. The 56 year old was amped up whenever he successfully passed off bottles to Kipchoge. He would emphatically fist pump. He even went viral on Twitter.
At the end of the day, the job was done. Kipchoge set a new world record, an achievement that the 37-year-old credited to Schulke.
"My biggest remembrance of the Berlin marathon is the guy who was handing me water," said Kipchoge when asked a few months after setting a new world record.
The double Olympic champion went on to say; "He is still my hero up to now, the way he was handling, reacting and talking was unbelievable."