Nike gears up for a sub 2-hour marathon breakthrough

Nike has today announced the launch of its ambitious Breaking2 project - a plan to break one of running’s most formidable barriers - the two-hour marathon - in 2017.

After more than two years of research, preparation and testing, three top distance runners have officially started their Nike-backed build-up toward a sub-two-hour attempt next spring, the exact timing and location of which have yet to be finalised. They are Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya, Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia and Zersenay Tadese of Eritrea.

The current world record of 2:02:57, set by Dennis Kimetto of Kenya in 2014, breaks down to 4:41 per mile. To run 1:59:59 or faster, a pace of 4:34 per mile will be required - a full seven seconds per mile (approximately 2.5 per cent) faster than the current record.

To maximise the runners’ chances of achieving this feat, Nike has brought together a team of passionate and world-class experts across biomechanics, coaching, design, engineering, materials development, nutrition, sports psychology and physiology.

‘We know that we need to break the two-hour marathon. That’s a defined outcome,’ says Brad Wilkins, the director of NXT Generation Research in the Nike Sport Research Lab. ‘So now let’s take a step back. What do we need to understand scientifically? What are the problems that we need to solve?’

Nike is keeping much of the Breaking2 plan under wraps for now, and many of the details are still being finalised. It is unlikely the quest will take place during a traditional, open marathon; rather, it will be held on a closed course, at a time and place believed optimal by Nike. It’s unclear whether the record, if achieved, will be sanctioned by governing bodies such as the IAAF or the Association of Road Racing Statisticians.

‘The sub-two-hour marathon is one of those epic barriers that people bust through,’ Nike’s VP of Footwear Innovation, Tony Bignall, told Runner’s World. ‘It’s like breaking 10 seconds for the 100 meters or four minutes for the mile. At the end of the day, we just want to show it can be done. We want to show that it’s within the capability of human physiology.’