Eliud Kipchoge strolls into the press room, flashes a wink here and there, and looks as fresh as ever.
It’s hard to believe, just thirty minutes before, the 32-year-old ran the world’s fastest marathon of all time.
For the current Olympic champion over 42.195km, playing the starring role in Nike’s ambitious Breaking 2 project seemed like just another day at his running office as he fielded questions from the world media.
His stunning run at the iconic Monza circuit – 2:00:25 – was 2:33 minutes faster than the world record set by Dennis Kimetto at the Berlin Marathon three years ago. Quite incredible.
However, when one looks at the history books it will not stand as an official record because of the pacing and hydration strategies employed by Nike during the race.
Nevertheless, the Kenyan has proved under intense spotlight and media attention that nothing is impossible when it comes to marathon running.
“This journey has been good. It’s been hard. It’s been a long journey. It’s taken seven good months of preparation,” he 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.”
Nike’s Breaking 2 has been six years in the making with over 60 athletes tested to carry out the project. In the end, Lelisa Desisa, Zersenay Tadese and Kipchoge were selected due to a combination of talent, training and technology – and with this a chance to run a sub two-hour marathon.
In addition to the training and diet advice, the team also designed a lightweight shoe – Zoom Vaporfly Elite – with its carbon fibre in-sole created to offer a marginal gain to the elite of the sport.
The track at Monza – with its run-friendly curves and low headwind – offered quick turns and an opportunity for the runners to reduce or maintain pacing times at various points of the track.
Desisa and Tadesa may be disappointed at not finishing closer to the two-hour mark, but as Kipchoge paid homage to after the race, it’s a team sport and both athletes played a key role in pushing the Kenyan to achieve this landmark feat.
At 26, Desisa is six years Kipchoge’s junior, and with a personal best of 2:04:45 to his name, he has the potential to challenge the record books in the future.
What’s significant about Nike’s Breaking 2 is its ability to put the athlete at the forefront of the project and offer the best training and expertise to help talent achieve the impossible.
It may be a while before we see a sub-two hour time in an official race, but Breaking 2 has certainly given hope to a younger generation of athletes to continue to push the boundaries in their quest to achieve the inhumane.
Walking away from Monza this evening, it’s clear that this time will be challenged, but thanks to global brands like Nike, it can really open the eyes to the running community that this is possible.