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The Sub-2 Hour Marathon

Was This Truly a “Moon Landing” Event?

by My Finish Line


Eliud Kipchoge recently became the first human ever to run under two hours for a marathon. It was described as being an event of “moon landing” significance by its organisers and supporters; however did Kipchoge’s incredible feat by his incredible feet derserve to be featured so incredibly?

Once many learnt of the “ergogenic aids” that contributed towards the sub-2 hour marathon, cynics weighed in with significant weight that it wasn’t and organic effort. Take away the natural obstacles that occur in athletics and many can claim other great feats, they cried. Let’s place a (legal speed) wind turbine behind a sprinter and aim for a sub-9sec 100m, or change the dynamics of a javelin and see if we can throw 200m; for example. The 4% improvement supposedly attributed to the Nike shoes combined with the reverse-V formation designed to block out wind for Kipchoge, throw in a few smoothed-out cambered roundabouts and a laser-guided pacing clock and the ‘adaptations’ to normal conditions do start adding up. But was it, despite these, still an awe-inspiring run; or was it an artificial publicity stunt?

The truth is, if we persist on the “moon landing” comparison, an unprecedented amount of research and technology was required to get to the Sea of Tranquillity in 1969, and NASA was in direct competition with the Soviet Union as far as getting there first. Kipchoge had no such competition. He was far and away the best and only candidate to be used as an option for the protagonists, of which significant money and expertise was used. Dr Michael Joyner, a world-renowned sports performance expert, states correctly that Kipchoge was a ‘once-in-many generations’ elite athlete that, significantly, was renowned for training exceptionally hard, and crucially, was very consistent in his running. He rarely runs poorly. This made him the ideal choice. He had also come close in a similar attempt in 2017 so consistency, quality, and precedence was on his side as an athlete.

From a technology standpoint, the energy cost saving of a lack of wind drag (in having pacemakers and windblockers around him) played as big a part in the success as the shoes; and although both these aspects may not fall within the spirit of competition for the time to be official (or even, possibly, fair); how many of us don’t buy the best shoes that we can and look to run behind people in wind and rain when given the opportunity? All that happened here was that principle with the might of a billionaire behind it and taken to the nth degree.

The scientists hypothesize that without all the drafting and mid-sole Nike technology and lasers, the time would still have been around 2:03-2:05h. There are five people that have run the marathon this year (2019) in times that have fallen within the thresholds of potentially having completed a 2-hour marathon with all the aids and technology that Kipchoge obtained. Does this make the event a falsehood? A stunt?

There is an argument to believe it is the opposite – it shows categorically that training, preparation and performance abilities are closing down technological advances; and that within the next decade or so we might see a sub-2 hour marathon occuring naturally. Kipchoge might not have landed on the moon, but he certainly flew the rocket close enough for everyone else to see what it looks like