Three African elite runners selected by Nike and backed by some scientists are trying to do the impossible by breaking the mythical two-hour barrier for marathons.
Kenya’s reigning Olympic marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge, Ethiopia’s Lelisa Desisa and Eritrea’s Zersenay Tadese are looking to complete the classic marathon distance of 26.2 miles in less than 2 hours on a fixed loop at the Monza National Autodrome racing circuit in Italy.
To achieve this goal, the trio of runners will need to set a ferocious pace of 4min 34sec per mile which will be seven seconds faster than the pace set with the existing world record of 2:02:57 by Dennis Kimetto of Kenya at the 2014 Berlin Marathon.
Kipchoge, during the defense of his London marathon title last April, ran a time of 2:03.05 to successfully defended his title. It was the third fastest marathon time ever recorded. He will be looking to shave off about 9 seconds to each mile to achieve the sporting immortality which scientists are convinced can be done.
“People have been thinking about the magical sub-two-hour marathon for a long time… Our calculations show that a sub-two-hour marathon time could happen right now, but it would require the right course and a lot of organization,” said Wouter Hoogkamer, lead researcher of a study recently published by the University of Colorado, Boulder.
Hoogkamer’s team set out a series of mathematical calculations demonstrating how an elite runner could break the two-hour barrier for marathons.
Respected track and field magazine Runners World has, however, called Nike’s attempt “audacious”, predicting through data analysis that the barrier would only be broken in 2075.
Taking away three minutes off the marathon world record will require a perfect alignment of human physiology, state-of-the-art equipment and perfect conditions. Through exhaustive analysis, Nike are convinced they have the right athletes to break the record thanks to their physical make-up and technique.
Speaking to AFP, a spokeswoman for Nike said:
“We have spent a long time exploring many dimensions of their performance, like the maximum oxygen an athlete can consume; the critical speed, or threshold an athlete is capable of maintaining; and the energy required; to their economy of running.”
“We know that these runners are perfectly equipped and wanting to run something that has never been run before.”
Nike were noticably not able to select current world record holder Kimetto due to his sponsorship by Adidas.
The IAAF have also dealt a blow to Nike’s ambitions saying the race will not take place in officially sanctioned race conditions and therefore would not regard the athletes time as a formal world record.
Nike reacted through their spokeswoman saying:
“The course will be IAAF ratified and will meet to all marathon course requirements including independently measured course distance, start versus finish location and course elevation”.
Whether or not the IAAF recognize the two-hour barrier for marathons record achievement if it is broken, Nike and the athletes involved are hoping to make history with the achievement.