Twenty-five seconds was all that stood between Kenyan runner Eliud Kipchoge and breaking one of the remaining coveted frontiers in athletics.
Kipchoge, 32, was among a team of elite runners expected to run a full marathon (42.2 km) in under two hours. But Kipchoge crossed the finish line at the Monza Formula 1 racetrack on Saturday in a time of two hours and 25 seconds.
— CNN International (@cnni) May 6, 2017
Even though Kipchoge failed to beat the two-hour mark, he smashed the official record of two hours, two minutes and 57 seconds set by fellow Kenyan Dennis Kimetto in Berlin in 2014.
The Kenyan as well as Ethiopia’s Lelisa Desisa and Zersenay Tadese of Eritrea, the world half-marathon record holder, began their race at break of dawn, running behind an arrow-head of pace-setters and a car beaming a green line on the road behind it to show the required speed for the sub-two hours target.
The pacemakers were made up of world class runners including Bernard Lagat of the United States of America.
The sub-two hour mark required a pace below four minutes and 35 seconds per mile which Kipchoge stuck to until falling behind the pace car in the last two laps of the 2.4km circuit.
The marathon was held at the Monza racetrack near Milan, Italy because of its wide, sweeping curves, lack of undulation and cool, low-wind environment.
Saturday’s event was the climax of the Breaking2 project launched by Nike in 2014, the same year in which Runners World magazine predicted a sub-two under normal conditions would not happen until 2075.
Reuters notes that the magazine had based its analysis on more than 10,000 top marathon performances.
Brad Wilkins, Director of NXT Generation Research in the Nike Sport Research Lab is quoted by CNN as saying ahead of the race: “We believe that once a sub-two hour marathon is done, the records will fall at traditional marathons after that. People will run faster and faster, similar to when Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile.”