April 20 2017
Nike announced their big project—Breaking2—with a somewhat wild goal: to break a two-hour marathon time. Many think it’s impossible, while others liken it to the four-minute mile that was once thought to be impossible as well. Today, obviously that mark has been shattered multiple times over, since Roger Bannister’s historic race in 1954, by runners as young as high school.
To help achieve a sub two-hour marathon, Nike is working with a diverse team of leaders across several fields of science and sport. Breaking2 provides an opportunity to explore whether the impossible is within reach. It is the ultimate embodiment of Nike’s mission: To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete on the planet, according to their website.
For Nike, a project of this magnitude challenges more than just a clock; it challenges people’s perceptions of the sport and human limits. And just FYI, hitting the goal requires shaving seven seconds per mile off for the 26.2 miles. Even for the world’s best runners this is a massive leap.
Eliud Kipchoge (2:03:05) of Kenya, Lelisa Desisa (2:04:45) of Ethiopia and Zersenay Tadese (58:23 for the half marathon, the world record) of Eritrea are all the three chosen athletes to make the attempt. The Breaking2 team includes world-class experts across biomechanics, coaching, design, engineering, materials development, nutrition and sports psychology and physiology, according to the Nike website. The project’s diverse group of people will come together to essentially create the “perfect race conditions,” for lack of a better way to put it. In this, the team will obsess every detail of the Breaking2 attempt, from weather conditions to jerseys. So yes, this means runners can expect new sleek gear coming your way from the swoosh.
While some run enthusiasts find this fascinating and would love to see the mark broken, others scold such calculated ideas for taking the elements of racing out of the equation and forcing the issue of a two-hour marathon as simply a science experiment.
The date and location of the sub two-hour race attempt will be revealed next year. Can they do it?