06/05/2017 7:02 AM AEST | Updated 06/05/2017 9:00 PM AEST

Athletes Fail To Break Two Hour Marathon Barrier By A Matter Of Seconds

But it was an interesting experiment.

Alessandro Garofalo / Reuters
No record, but he did get a lovely orange singlet.

Kenyan Olympic gold medallist Eliud Kipchoge missed out on becoming the first athlete to run a marathon under two hours. But only just.

The 32-year-old ran the 42.195 kilometre route in 2:00.25, only just missing out on the mark at a special event in Monza, Italy, organised by Nike.

Despite beating the current marathon world record time, held at 2:02:57 by fellow Kenyan Dennis Kimetto, Kipchoge's effort will not be recognised as a new record due to the use of pace-setting runners who helped him and two other marathoners maintain a record pace.


It won't be an official world record, but so what? Three African runners could still run their way into history this weekend.

Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya, Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia and Zersenay Tadese of Eritrea are all top marathoners. Indeed, Kipchoge won last year's Rio Olympic marathon.

This weekend, they'll all try to run a marathon in less than two hours. Yes, 42.195 kilometres in under two hours. Which is pretty close to unthinkable, as the world record (not held by any of these three runners) is 2:02:57.

So how are they going to do it?

AFP/Getty Images
Kipchoge wins in Rio. He'll have to go eight minutes quicker this weekend.

How will they shave more than three minutes off the world record? Ah, well that's all down to a little help from Nike, which came up with the concept called Breaking2. Basically, Nike is doing whatever it can to make life easier for the runners, including:

  • FANCY NIKE SHOES, called the Zoom Vaporfly Elite, which have a special shape which helps change the angle of the foot, meaning runners expel less energy.
  • SPECIAL CLOTHES which will have aerodynamic and ventilation advantages.
  • A SPECIAL COURSE, which will be roughly 17 laps of a 2.4km loop on the Monza F1 track in northern Italy. It's pretty much dead flat.
  • PACE-SETTERS, who will drop out every two laps (to be replaced by others) which will allow runners to make sure they keep up with record-breaking pace.
  • DRINKS SERVED MORE FREQUENTLY THAN USUAL, and served from a moped, so runners don't have to slow down at drink stations.

All of which explains why any records they set will not stand as official records. All the same, it'll be pretty cool.

"It won't be an official record [if it happens], but it would such a fantastic achievement for what it is," former Olympic marathon runner Steve Moneghetti told The HuffPost Australia.

"Monners", as he's known, won the Berlin marathon back in 1990 in a time of 2:08:16 which at the time was just 86 seconds outside the world record. It would be another decade before the world mark inched lower by a few seconds.

With that in mind, we asked Monners if it was a little, you know, sneaky or something to set up a record to be broken by three minutes.

Forget it. He loves the idea.

Scott Barbour via Getty Images
For Monners, it's not a black and white issue of records versus non-records.

"It's phenomenal thinking," the 54-year-old champ said. "It won't be an official record, but it's such a fantastic achievement for what it is.

"And then you have to say, how now is this technology and race structure going to affect the way marathon runners run and the way races are set up in the future? What can we cross over into normal events?"

"It's a bit like Formula One races where you ask what benefits the technology can bring to normal cars.

"There's also the mental side. Obviously two hours is this magical barrier, and mentally once someone does it, everyone knows it's possible, so it raises people's sights."


And below is the Facebook live stream, which will start over the weekend.


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