The athletics world was watching the F1 track in Monza this morning as three Nike runners Eliud Kipchoge, Lelisa Desisa and Zersenay Tadese attempted the unthinkable, 1:59:59 for 26.2 miles.
Since the announcement was made of the attempt back in December i have not only be following the Nike information but the wide ranging views of the athletics world in general. To be fair its been mainly negative with many saying its just a marketing stunt by Nike and an unusual move from the athletes, especially Eluid who is in the prime of his marathon career.
At 5:45am this morning, the three athletes and a rotating team of pacemakers set off at an incredible pace (average 4:34 per mile) in front of a small crowd of invited guests, the media and Nike sponsored athletes. The course was a 2.7km loop of the Monza track which they would go round 17.5 times.
With the help of lead car and the rotating pacers, the target was well within sight through the first 20km. Unfortunately the pace was too strong for Desisa who was the first the drop off the pace and become isolated. To be honest he didnt look strong from the start. Tadese was next just before half way.
This left Kipchoge and the flying V to go through half way in 59:57 just some 3 seconds within the 2 hour target. Most elite marathon runners in city marathons aim to run a negative split the plan for this 1:59:59 attempt was very such about even pace. This strategy, as it turned out, left very little margin for error in the final miles.
The pace continued on target until the 35km mark when like every other marathoner on the planet, tiredness and fatigue kicked in. Each of the runners had their own special drinks and energy gels which were provided by a cyclist at specific intervals. Each were tailored to their own individual needs.
By 40km Kipchoge was 20 seconds adrift and loosing ground with a clear grimace on his face. Turning the final corner, with the last of the pacers encouraging him on, Kipchoge crossed the line in an unbelievable time of 2:00:25. Just 26 seconds outside the elusive 2 hour mark. Its crazy to think that he would have just had to run 1 second per mile quicker and he would of had it. But anyone who has ran a marathon, or any distance, will know its really not as simple as that.
How does it feel to run 26.2 miles in 2:00:25? Like this
Whilst it must have been disappointing for Kipchoge and Nike (considering the amount of money they would have spent on the project) to not achieve the target, it shows how big the target is and how much it will be for a considerable amount of time to come.
The record will be safe for the time being and i don’t think another attempt will be made for a few years yet (if ever). Even less unlikely will be a sub 2 hour in a marathon such as London, Berlin or Dubai. I think there are too many variables and obliviously won’t have a similar pacing or drinks strategy to the attempt today.
I was a bit surprised how soon Desisa and Tadese dropped off the pace (they finished in 2:15 and 2:06). They would have trained running at this pace and with the conditions almost perfect, would have thought they were in with a chance to challenge Kipchoge.
Whats next for the three runner? they’ll be no appearance in Berlin as they all have apparently signed agreements not to run there. Maybe New York or they’ll hold off to next spring.
It will be interesting to hear feedback in the next couple of weeks on the concept shoes and clothes that the runners wore. Did the new Vaporfly Elite 4% actually provide them with extra return? Hopefully we’ll find out.