On December 2016, sportswear giant Nike launched a moonshot project that was, as the company described it, “designed to unlock human potential.” The simple but audacious goal was to break the two-hour mark in a full marathon.
It took Nike two years of planning and research before finally forging ahead with its vision to top the current world record for a marathon at 2:02:57 set by Dennis Kimetto of Kenya in Berlin on September 2014. The sportswear giant also brought together a powerhouse team composed of world-class experts across the fields of biomechanics, coaching, design, engineering, materials development, nutrition, and sports psychology and physiology who scrutinized every aspect of the Breaking2 attempt, from weather conditions leading to the day of the race to products used by the runners.
Moreover, central to the success of the Breaking2 project was the team of elite athletes who were perfectly equipped to chase history down the 26.6-mile track: Kenya’ Eliud Kipchoge, Ethiopia’s Lelisa Desisa, and Eritrea’s Zersenay Tadese. Kipchoge, the men’s marathon gold medalist at the 2016 Rio Olympics, ran a personal of 2:03:05 in the 2016 London Marathon. Tadese, also an Olympic medalist and World Half Marathon Champion, is the current holder of the men’s half marathon world record at 58:23. Desisa, meanwhile, also won a number of high-profile races. During his marathon debut at the 2013 Dubai Marathon, he clocked a personal best of 2:04:45.
While Nike’s quest to beat the two-hour marathon came up short — with Kipchoge finishing the race in 2 hours and 25 seconds – it was still a laudable effort by the brand and its team of experts and elite athletes. As Kipchoge explained, his aim at the start of the race was 1:00:59; but as he crossed the finished line and realized he fell short of his goal, he remarked, “the world is only 25 seconds away.”