Eliud Kipchoge failed in his bid to break the sub-two hour marathon barrier, but produced a stunning performance of 2:00:25 to run the quickest recorded marathon ever at Nike’s Breaking 2 event.
The Kenyan – alongside Lelisa Desisa and world half-marathon record holder Zersenay Tadese – were bidding to lower the world record exactly 63 years since Roger Bannister ran the first four-minute mile in 1954.
The Breaking 2 running project was part of a long innovative plan by Nike to prove that lowering the world record was not impossible.
Despite not going under two hours at the iconic Monza circuit, Kipchoge lowered a world record previously set by Dennis Kimetto of Kenya in the 2014 Berlin Marathon.
Although his effort was nothing short of sensational, it will not count as an official record due to the pacing strategy.
Kipchoge said: “I’m happy to have done it. With the race I felt good, I’m a happy man to run a marathon in two hours. Now it is just 25 seconds.
“I believe in good preparation and planning and if I stick to that the 25 seconds will come.”
He added: “The aim of breaking two to bring together six billion people. To pass that message is really important to me. That’s why we are pushing to prove there is no human that has limitation.”
Three elite runners will attempt an audacious assault on the boundaries of the possible by trying to run a marathon in less than two hours.
Reigning Olympic marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge from Kenya, Ethiopia’s Lelisa Desisa and Eritrea’s Zersenay Tadese will aim to complete the marathon distance of 26.2 miles (42.195 kilometres) in 1hr 59min 59 sec or faster at the Monza National Autodrome racing circuit in Italy.
In their pursuit of sporting immortality the trio will need to set a ferocious pace of 4min 34sec per mile — seven seconds quicker than the pace of the current world record of 2:02:57 set by Dennis Kimetto of Kenya at the 2014 Berlin Marathon.
Can they break the record?
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.
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.