After years of preparation and design and research and development and training, Nike attempted to break 2 hours in the marathon.
But it does not come without criticism and a bit of skepticism.
If you haven’t heard, Nike created the Breaking2 Project as a way to see if it is possible for a human being to run 26.2 miles in under 2 hours. The project has been in the works for years, but Nike only announced it late last year. And they have been keeping details about the project pretty secret.
Nike was not trying to run a world record in a real race. They were attempting to control every single aspect of the run so they could get someone to run in under two hours.
And when I say every single aspect of the run, I mean every single aspect. Even the weather.
While no one can actually control the weather, they allowed for the weather by scheduling a window that the run would take place in. Friday through Sunday at any time they see fit. This let them look at the forecast and pick the very best time to start.
That start happened to be Saturday at 5:45 AM in Monza, Italy which is Friday at 11:45 PM where I am on the east coast of the United States.
There was a group of pacers that cycled in and out. The pacers ran in a V formation in front of the runners to cut down wind resistance.
Hydration and nutrition were given to the runners via moped, so they would not have to slow down or deviate from the course to get their bottles.
And there was a pace car in front of them that not only drove exactly 13.1 miles per hour, but also cast a green line on the ground in front of the runners so they knew exactly how on pace they were.
In the end, Eliud Kipchoge was able to finish 26.2 miles in 2:00:25.
Very close to breaking 2 hours.
As I watched live I also followed the reactions and discussion online. People were excited. People were nervous. There was a lot of people that enjoyed this attempt and would like to see it attempted again.
But there was also a little bit of hate.
Critics pointed out that it is not an official world record because of the rules that were broken regarding pacers and water stations and the like. Some people shook off the attempt because of how controlled it was. Understandably people want to see this done in a real race.
And of course there is the point that Nike is doing this as a marketing publicity stunt.
But the thing is, the Breaking2 Project is not about running the marathon. I also, maybe very naively, believe that it is not completely, 100%, all the way a publicity stunt either.
Sure, Nike is getting a lot of good press from this. I have already seen too many people say they want those ugly ass shoes, even though they know damn well they’ll do nothing to make them faster. And Nike would love to have the privilege to say that one of their athletes broke two hours.
Nike CEOs might be thinking about the publicity, but I think a lot of the trainers and scientists and individual people working on this project really love running and want to see this happen for what it will do for the running community and industry.
Nike essentially created a science experiment that asked, if all the variables were aligned perfectly could a human being run sub 2 hours?
To people all over the world, the Breaking2 Project is not about running a marathon in under 2 hours. It is about seeing what the human body can do.
The great running coach Bill Bowerman said:
The real purpose of running isn’t to win a race, it’s to test the limits of the human heart.
And that is what Nike was doing. Testing the human limits.
Olympic marathoner Shalane Flanagan was at the attempt and she said this:
Everyone has a sub2 barrier that they want to break. This inspires them.
When watching the Breaking2 attempt, it did not matter if you were an elite runner eyeing the world record or a six hour marathoner looking to set a new PR. This attempt inspired people all across the spectrum.
I can tell you, I was sure as hell inspired.
What is your sub2 barrier?
Is it running your first marathon? Is it getting that BQ? Is it something else entirely?
My current barrier is double of what these guys were attempting. My next barrier is a sub 4 marathon, which I hope to get past this November at the Philadelphia Marathon. You can follow along on on the blog here and watch as I document the progress on Instagram.