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Nike Unveils Breaking2: An Audacious Quest to Break the 2-Hour Marathon Barrier

Designed to unlock the human potential, will this innovation moon shot make history? 

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Dec 16, 2016
Nike Unveils Breaking2: An Audacious Quest to Break the 2-Hour Marathon Barrier

Like all daring dreams, Breaking2 has an audacious goal: Enable a sub two-hour marathon time. Many would consider this feat impossible as it requires reducing the current men’s world record time of 2:02:57 by 3%. However, that challenge is exactly what drives Nike - the impossible is an opportunity to envision the future of sport.

To help achieve a sub two-hour marathon, Nike is working with a diverse team of leaders across several fields of science and sport with a holistic approach to athletes, product, training, nutrition and environment.

Breaking2 provides an opportunity to explore whether the impossible is within reach. It is the ultimate embodiment of Nike’s mission: To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete on the planet.

Nike Unveils Breaking2: An Audacious Quest to Break the 2-Hour Marathon Barrier

The Only Limits You Have Are the Limits You Believe

In 1954, Sir Roger Bannister ran the first four-minute mile. Bannister didn’t just break a record; he redefined what athletes were capable of and inspired confidence in others to do the same. This great story reminds Nike that inspiration - complete belief in an impossible goal, is at the core of human potential.

Bill Bowerman, Nike’s co-founder and legendary track coach, once said,

“The real purpose of running isn't to win a race, it’s to test the limits of the human heart."

At its core, Breaking2 is about more than a marathon. Attempting to break the sub two-hour marathon challenges the perception of what is possible in sport, resets the expectations of product and enables Nike to gather incredible athlete insight. These lessons can be applied across everything Nike does, including products and services, to ultimately serve all runners.

The Chosen Ones

Reaching a sub two-hour marathon requires shaving seven seconds off each of the 26.2 miles of the marathon. Even for the world’s best runners, this is a massive leap. Nike spent significant time identifying three elite athletes who are well equipped for, and bold enough to take on the challenge.

Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya, Zersenay Tadese of Eritrea and Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia are all lined up to attempt the impossible and run a sub two-hour marathon. These runners are not afraid of the unknown - they attack it.

Eliud Kipchoge

32-year-old Eliud from Kenya is arguably the best marathoner in the world right now. The Olympic gold medallist from Rio began running after high school following years of observing his coach and mentor, Patrick Sang, who is still his coach to date.

In 2003, then 18-year-old Eliud made his debut in distance running after setting a world junior record in the 5,000 meters at the IAAF World Cross Country Championship. Later that year, he went on to be crowned World Champion at the World Championships in Athletics.

Nike Unveils Breaking2: An Audacious Quest to Break the 2-Hour Marathon Barrier

Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya.

This year, Eliud set a new course record, also his personal best, in the London Marathon with a winning time of 2:03:05.

3 weeks ago, he also won the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon, clocking 59:44. However, can he go twice the distance at nearly the same pace?

Zersenay Tadese

34-year-old Zersenay from Eritrea currently holds the men’s half marathon world record with a time of 58:23 and is a five-time world champion at the World Half Marathon Championships. However, most of his best performances came prior to 2012 and his eighth-place finish (27:23) in the 10,000 meters event in Rio was far from his best.

Nike Unveils Breaking2: An Audacious Quest to Break the 2-Hour Marathon Barrier

Zersenay Tadese of Eritrea.

Zersenay's marathon best is 2:10:41. Will he be able to make history and go under 2 hours in 2017?

Lelisa Desisa

26-year-old Lelisa from Ethiopia is best known in the United States as the man who won the 2013 Boston Marathon, which saw bombs exploding two hours after his triumph. He later returned his medal back to the city of Boston to honour the victims. In 2015, Lelisa won the Boston Marathon again with a time of 2:09:17, and took second in 2016.

Nike Unveils Breaking2: An Audacious Quest to Break the 2-Hour Marathon Barrier

Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia.

His personal best is 2:04:45, a record achieved in his very first marathon when he was 23. Will the youngest among the three, and potentially the most untapped, be the one rewriting the record?

The Breaking2 Team

Fuelled by a long-standing passion for running, Nike began working on a marathon-specific footwear solution in 2013. This effort eventually transitioned a year later into a full-on commitment to breaking the two-hour marathon, precipitating the formation of the Breaking2 team.

The Breaking2 team includes world-class experts across biomechanics, coaching, design, engineering, materials development, nutrition and sports psychology and physiology. Alignment of the group’s diverse knowledge bases aims to unpack performance at the molecular level. In this, the team will obsess every detail of the Breaking2 attempt, from weather conditions to jerseys, enabling Eliud, Zersenay, and Lelisa to maximize their potential.

Nike Unveils Breaking2: An Audacious Quest to Break the 2-Hour Marathon Barrier

Innovation Is Key

Nike believes that athletes will require the most innovative product to run the perfect race. This is a critical pillar of the Breaking2 attempt where Nike will seek to deliver unrivaled performance benefits. After years of extensive research and development, Breaking2 will debut a system of ground-breaking innovation that has the potential to elevate every runner.

The Revoluntionary Attempt

Nike is keeping much of the Breaking2 plan under wraps for now, and many details have yet to be disclosed. The date and location of the sub two-hour race attempt will be revealed next year.

To go faster than ever, each second is optimized by careful consideration of the course and conditions. As such, it is unlikely that the attempt will take place during a traditional, open marathon. Instead, we will speculate that the quest will be held on a closed course, at a place and time believed optimal by Nike.

Inspired? Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will! Marathon preparation requires efficacy if you intend to emerge as a champion at the end of the race. Check out 11 Tips to Help You Score a Personal Best (Timing) on Race Day!

Yun Jie is a competitive athlete and coach who is actively involved in various sports at community and international levels. Through editorial writing, she hopes to positively influence and educate readers with her expertise and experience in high sports performance.

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