The Sub-2Hour Experiment and Olympic Gold Medalist Eliud Kipchoge’s Amazing Run

Nike Breaking2
Autodromo Nazionale, Monza, ITA; Saturday, May 6
Distance: 42.195 km; 17.5-lap, 2.4 km course measured by IAAF “A” measurer David Katz (USA) who also observed the race to make sure the athletes covered the course as measured
Finishers: 3
Prize Money: None reported
Weather: Cool (about 52F/11C) with 80% humidity
(By David Monti/Race Results Weekly) (Photos by Victah Sailer/PhotoRun)


2016 Olympic Games
Rio De Janeiro, Brazil August 12-21, 2016
Photo: Victah Sailer@PhotoRun

In this carefully planned exhibition, designed to hold as many variables stable so one man could attempt to break the two-hour barrier for the standard marathon distance, an electric car set the pace while shining green lasers on the roadway behind it to help a rotating group of pacemakers form a 6-man “V” ahead of three African protagonists, Eliud Kipchoge (KEN), Lilesa Desisa (ETH) and Zersenay Tadese (ERI). 

Only Kipchoge, the reigning Olympic Marathon champion, could come close to holding the necessary sub-2:51/km pace into the later kilometers.  He ran remarkably fast splits (see below), and only after 35 km was he far enough off of the pace that getting under two hours had slipped his grasp. Nonetheless, Kipchoge clocked an eye-popping 2:00:25, well under the IAAF and ARRS-ratified world record of 2:02:57 (Dennis Kimetto, Berlin, 2014).

However, Kipchoge’s mark cannot be ratified as a world record, at least under IAAF rules.  The rotating group of pacers –who came in and out of the competition in shifts– plus the delivery of fluids by motorbike (Kipchoge didn’t take any fluids from the mortorbike but from a designated fluid table) made recognizing Kipchoge’s run as an official world record impossible.

Nonetheless, it was a fantastic athletic achivement.  Moreover, it was an epic marketing ploy by Nike, watched via live streaming over many platforms by perhaps tens of millions of people (nearly 5 million on Facebook alone).  Most major news outlets picked up the story, both before and after the race, and fan interest was strong, leading to hot debates about what Kipchoge’s result actually meant.  The opening day of the IAAF Diamond League in Doha was completely overshadowed.

Breaking2 definitely generated new and interesting questions for marathon running in the future, like:

. Will Kipchoge attempt an IAAF world record in a sanctioned competition in the future, and how fast can he go?

. What was learned during the Breaking2 build-up about training, nutrition and fluids which could be valuable to helping marathoners go faster in the future?  Will Breaking2 share that research with others, or is it proprietary?

. How relevant were Nike’s new lightweight racing shoes with a carbon-fiber plate to Kipchoge’s time, and will the IAAF approve them for official competitions in the future?

. How will fans judge the outcomes of other marathons if the winners do not approach the two-hour mark?  Is a 2:05 mark now “slow?”

. How much of the two minute, 32-second difference between Kimetto’s world record and Kipchoge’s time can be attributed to the athlete, the pacing and drafting, the shoes, the carbohydrate drink, etc?  What time would Kipchoge have run on the same training in a standard race?

MEN (gun times) –
1. Eliud Kipchoge, KEN, 2:00:25
2. Zersenay Tadese, ERI, 2:06:51
3. Lelisa Desisa, ETH, 2:14:10

Pacemakers (partial list):
Chris Derrick, USA, DNF
Sam Chelanga, USA, DNF
Andrew Bumbalough, USA, DNF
Teklemariam Medhim, ERI, DNF
Nguse Amlosom, ERI, DNF
Aron Kifle, ERI, DNF
Dejene Debela Gonfa, ETH, DNF
Abayneh Ayele Woldegiorgis, ETH, DNF
Tadu Abate Deme, ETH, DNF
Collis Birmingham, AUS, DNF
Selemon Barega, ETH, DNF
Alex Korio, KEN, DNF
Gideon Kipketer, KEN, DNF
Stephen Sambu, KEN, DNF
Bernard Lagat, USA, DNF
Philemon Rono, KEN, DNF
Julien Wanders, SUI, DNF
Abdi Nageeye, NED, DNF

Kipchoge’s 5 km Splits:
5 km    14:14
10 km    28:21 (14:07)
15 km    42:34 (14:13)
20 km    56:49 (14:15)
25 km  1:11:03 (14:12)
30 km  1:25:20 (14:19)
35 km  1:39:37 (14:17)
40 km  1:54:04 (14:27)
Halves: 59:57 / 60:28

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