Why It’s Worth Striving For a Sub-2 Hour Marathon – And Why It Is Not

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The news was all over the internet during the last weeks. Nike introduced its Breaking2 project and hence chimes into the ambitious goal to run a marathon in less than two hours. Nike doesn’t seem to be the first company working on this goal. Also Adidas is working to break this magic barrier for a couple of years. In this article I want to share my thoughts on the feasibility of this project as well as sense and nonsense of such a feat.

Is It Possible?

Well that’s the key question right? I absolutely believe that one day someone will run the 26.2 miles in less than two hours. There were so many limits in athletics thought to be unbreakable until someone did. The 4-minute mile by Roger Bannister in 1954 is just one of the examples that can be named.

Will we see a sub-2 hour marathon in 2017? I don’t think so! The current record set by Dennis Kimetto in 2014 is 2:02:57. So the Nike athletes need to strip three minutes of the current world record. For the last three-minute improvement it took the elite runners 15 years!

Now with this specific focus and three great athletes I expect a new world record in the next two years. Also new PBs for all three runners seems realistic. But none of them will finish in less than two hours.

The Perfect Conditions

Mike Joyner from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minnesota released a paper in 1991 where he tried to calculate the best theoretically possible marathon performance. The result: 1:57:58. According to Joyner, a marathoner himself, an athlete needs to have an optimal VO2max, lactate threshold and a prime running economy.

Besides the athlete’s abilities there are some other factors that come into play. On the equipment side Nike will for sure develop the perfect products like shoes and sweat-wicking clothes. But also the course needs to be perfect. I’m pretty sure the record attempt will be made on a perfectly straight course or even on track. Also the climate needs to be perfect. The temperature should be quite cold like less than 45° F (7° C) and strong winds or rain are of course a no go.

Having all this conditions in place and the work by experts, trainers and athletes has been done I guess we’ll see a much faster time than 2:02:57 but it won’t be in less than two hours.

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Benefits Of the Sub-2 Hour Goal

So what’s the big idea behind all this? I think it’s pretty clear that the Breaking2 project is a huge marketing campaign Nike is pulling off. The announcement alone brings the brand into global news sites already. And boy will they advertise their record attempt. Should Nike succeed it will be huge as far as global brand recognition.

But apart from Nike’s benefits what can we expect from this project? The clear goal and the hard work the team at Nike will put into this can boost innovation. Not only running shoes and sportswear could see quite a boost in their development. Also new insights in physiology or medicine could be gained that could be beneficial for all hobby or elite runners.

So in that perspective I’m exited what we will see along the way to the sub-2 hour marathon goal. The journey is the destination, just as Confucius already noted 🙂

Running Is More Than Records

As described I see many benefits of the Breaking2 project especially if it helps gathering new insights and it could spawn new amazing products. However chasing records is not at all why I love running at what should be an athletes priority. Running as a pro sport has always been about competing against each other. It’s about running side by side for hours and see at the end who was able to manage the conditions and the course better at that specific day. That is the goal and it’s obvious that running as fast as possible and breaking records are logical side effects.

Also for me as an amateur running is much more than records and numbers. Just chasing records is against my running spirit. The enjoyment and the positive effects on health, both physical and mental, come first. Being outside in nature, breathing fresh air and be able to move on my own legs for hours straight is a privilege that is worth more than beating a manmade barrier.

So although I’m excited about the Breaking2 project I encourage all the hobby runners out there to enjoy each run you make and focus on your health. The PBs will come along the way!

Further Reading

Nike’s Announces Breaking2 Project

So what are your thoughts about this? Leave a comment or get in touch on social media.

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2 comments on “Why It’s Worth Striving For a Sub-2 Hour Marathon – And Why It Is Not”

  • TestX Core says:

    Becoming one of the best athletes needs to strive hard while you’re in training session. Making yourself flexible in all ways while you give all you’ve learn when you’re on the field. It’s one way where you’ll be able to know the difference if you manage to break your own record on your past training. Always remember that through intense exercise it also helps you to be a better athlete.

  • Christopher says:

    A 4:42 or less per mile will break 2 hours. That seems to much for the human body for 26.2 miles. The fastest mile I ever did was 4:23 for just one mile, and was after months of 40-60 mile weeks.

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