Three of the world’s strongest marathon runners will this weekend attempt to redefine the perception of human running ability by completing 26.2 miles in under two hours. Eliud Kipchoge (pictured), Lelisa Desisa and Zersenay Tadese will attempt the challenge at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza complex just outside of Milan, Italy on Saturday 6 May.
Dennis Kimetto currently owns the world record with his 2:02:57 victory at the 2014 Berlin Marathon while the average time it takes marathoners to finish a race is in the region of four hours. You could be forgiven for thinking that shaving three minutes off your time in order to achieve a world record feat may be a simple task for world class runners, but in an environment in which seconds matter, it might as well be an eternity.
The ambitious ‘Breaking 2’ project is the latest enterprise of sportswear giant Nike and although the record 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. However, if the record was to be smashed on Saturday, it will still go down as a huge milestone in the history of running.
One key factor which could aid the athletes in their attempt is the location and although Monza is more accustomed to having Formula One cars fly around it, Nike’s extensive research and pre-event analysis identified its quick surface as the tailor-made venue for the record effort. The runners will run 17.5 laps of the flat circuit where they will face only one short uphill section per loop and very little headwind.
The athletics world seems to be very much divided on the attempt, with some labeling it as marketing gimmick due to the wealth of benefits aiding the runners including revolutionary shoes, a pack of interchangeable pacemakers and a non-traditional course. On the other side many seem to be simply intrigued by the effects of marginal gains and suggest that, at a time when athletics is reeling from relentless bad news, such a quantum leap in human endurance, arguably the greatest in the sport's history, is something to be welcomed and celebrated.