Nobody has ever run a full distance marathon in a faster time than two hours and two minutes, but Nike is not about to let that stand in the way of attempting to shatter what is perceived to be an unbreakable record. Starting in the early hours in Italy on Saturday morning (or Friday night, for those in North America), Nike’s Breaking2 team of three long-distance runners will attempt to break the two-hour barrier.
The world record attempt will be run by Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya, Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia, and Zersenay Tadese of Eritrea. These three runners have chosen to skip out on the traditional spring marathon season in an effort to focus and train for this one particular event. Though it will be closed to the public, those wanting to watch this attempt at making history can follow along online. And there will be a documentary to come as well.
The current world record for running a marathon was set in 2014 by Dennis Kimetto of Kenya, who ran the Berlin Marathon in 2:02:57. To date, the fastest marathon time by the three runners taking part in this attempt is Kipchoge’s 2:03:05 in London in 2016. That means trimming a little more than three minutes off his personal best time, and even more for the other two runners.
Pulling off this feat would be quite the milestone for the marathon. The world record has been shaved seven times since 2000 by a grand total of 2 minutes and 50 seconds. It will take more than that to set the new world record.
Because this is Nike, you already know that means they have been working on designing brand new running shoes for the world record attempt. Each runner will be wearing shoes specifically designed for him. If the record does get set, that model of shoe is going to fly off the shelves as runners across the country scramble to get their hands on it. But this is about more than just the shoes. It’s about the science of pushing the human body to the limit.
It was determined in 1991 by Mayo Clinic anesthesiologist Michael Joyner that the fastest time to run a marathon possible by the human body should come out to 1:57:58. That leaves roughly four minutes to trim off the current world record to achieve maximum running efficiency in a marathon. Nike researchers have been implementing new ways to monitor the bodies of the runners and adjust training as they see fit to get the runners in shape for this attempt. Nike would be happy just to break the two-hour mark. They can focus on that 1:57:58 down the line (and you know they will).