The reigning Olympic marathon champion has teamed with Nike for Breaking2, an attempt to run 26.2 miles in under two hours.
In the official press release, Nike referred to the project as “an innovation moonshot designed to unlock human potential.”
Over the past two years, WIRED and Runner’s World reports, Nike has dedicated a team of scientists, coaches, designers and statisticians to breaking the two-hour marathon barrier. According to WIRED, the Breaking2 team is “working to address every single factor that might slow the runners down. They’re looking at the aerodynamic properties of running apparel; pacing strategies of world-class runners as well as what they eat and how they train; the look, size, and feel of racing shoes; even the environment and shape of the track.”
Nike has recruited three top athletes for the project: Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, a three-time Olympic medalist who won gold in the men’s marathon at the 2016 Rio Olympics; Eritrea’s Zersenay Tadese, who holds the half marathon world record and also won a bronze medal in the 10,000m at the Athens Olympics; and Ethiopia’s Lelisa Desisa, a two-time Boston Marathon winner.
Tadese told Runner’s World, “I know one day [two hours] will be broken. I want to be part of it.”
The current world record, set by Dennis Kimetto of Kenya at the Berlin Marathon in Sept. 2014, is 2:02:57.
Kipchoge’s personal best time is 2:03:05, notched at the 2015 London Marathon. His winning time in Rio was 2:09:54.
It’s expected that the Breaking2 team will not attempt to break the two-hour mark during a traditional marathon. Instead, Kipchoge, Tadese and Desisa will likely race on a specially-designed course that’s closed to the public.
The special marathon is reportedly planned for spring 2017, with the exact date and location yet to be announced.
Nike hasn’t addressed whether their attempt at breaking the world record will be sanctioned by the International Association of Athletics Federation.
“At the end of the day, we just want to show it can be done,” Nike’s VP of Footwear Innovation, Tony Bignall, told Runner’s World. “We want to show that it’s within the capability of human physiology.”