Breaking2: Nike athletes aim to break sub two-hour marathon in Italy

Nike are setting out to achieve the impossible in Monza and smash the two-hour sub marathon mark.

Niall McCague
by Niall McCague
2nd May 2017

article:2nd May 2017

Shaving almost three minutes off the current world marathon record may prove to be a hugely difficult task, but this weekend three men will attempt the impossible of breaking the two-hour marathon barrier in Italy.

The ambitious Nike project – named Breaking2 – will see world-class runners Eliud Kipchoge, Lelisa Desisa and Zersenay Tadese line up on the famous Monza International Circuit to attempt to shatter the record of 2:02:57 – set by Kenya’s Dennis Kimetto in Berlin in 2014.


Although the attempt has been certified to satisfy IAAF regulations, the run will not re-write the marathon record books as it is not run on an officially sanctioned course.

Even so, the project has been a long time in the making for the sports brand giant, and if the unthinkable is achieved in Italy, it will go down as a huge milestone in the history of running.

To get even anywhere near eclipsing Kimetto’s epic performance in Germany three years ago, finding the right location to stage the attempt was paramount for Nike – and they believe they have the perfect venue.

Monza is of course more accustomed to having Formula One cars fly around it, but Nike’s extensive research and pre-event analysis identified its quick surface as the tailor-made venue for the record effort.

Indeed, the three elite athletes in question will run 17.5 laps of the 2.4km flat Monza circuit, completing the gruelling 42.195km marathon distance. They will face only one short uphill section per loop as well as very little headwind.

Breaking2 marathon runners' personal bests

  • ZERSENAY TADESE (Eritrean) – 2:10:41
  • LELISA DESISA (Ehtiopia) – 2:04:45
  • ZERSENAY TADESE (Eritrean) – 2:10:41

The fact that temperatures are expected to be around a cool 12 ℃ in northern Italy will also aid the Nike runners.

The short course means Kipchoge, Desisa and Tadese will pass hydration stations every seven minutes – about twice as often as stations in normal races. And in order for the runners not to slow down when collecting the fluids, they will be delivered on a moped.

For the athletes, finishing isn’t going to be enough as they have the audacious aim of writing their names into the history books.

Kipchoge’s personal best of 2:03:05 , also set in Berlin in 2013, may put him in prime contention to take on the impossible, but running under sub-2 will mean he has to slice seven seconds off each mile of the race – a massive ask for even the top men in the sport.

Of course, even if a record isn’t broken this weekend, the Breaking2 project still represents a significant breakthrough in marathon running as key figures push the sub-two hour marker.

For those wanting to watch the event, it’s closed to the public but can be viewed on a live stream via the Sport360 website.

Our reporter Niall McCague will be there at the Monza track covering the action, so keep your eyes peeled for content across Sport360’s channels.


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