Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 18th 2017 Contents sports A43
Thursday, May 18, 2017 guardian.co.tt
Billion-dollar race to break
2-hour marathon mark
LONDON---For distance runners, it's a mysti-
cal goal equivalent to the four-minute mile that
Roger Bannister broke in 1954; a test so difficult
some have estimated it may be 50 years or more
before anyone achieves it.
Now the $270 billion market for athletic shoes and
apparel is fueling an assault on the mark.
Nike and Adidas have announced separate plans to
attack the barrier, with both introducing shoe lines
linked to the effort. Wireless tech giant Vodafone last
month said it was backing a third bid, hoping data
gleaned from the quest will translate into wearable
The leader so far is Nike, which came within a whis-
In this April 26, 2015 file photo, Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya wins the Men's race in
the 35th London Marathon. On the 63rd anniversary of Roger Bannister breaking
the four-minute mile, three elite athletes will attempt to do something arguably
more extraordinary, run the first sub-two-hour marathon. AP PHOTO
per of the barrier with a time of 2:00:25 in a run with
top athletes on May 6. But Yannis Pitsiladis, a pro-
fessor of sport and exercise science at the University
of Brighton, England, may be the tortoise in this race
with Nike's hare. He says running a 2-hour marathon
will require a coordinated scientific effort and aims
to raise $30 million for a project that will increase the
understanding of the limits of human performance.
Vodafone is backing Pitsiladis.
"Nike are doing this because they realized, 'Wow,
I can sell more shoes,'" he said. "For me, this is not
marketing. It's what humans can do when they work
together. It's about human ambition, human legacy.
It's like a journey to Mars."
Nike, which built its brand on the exploits of Mi-
chael Jordan and legions of runners wearing Nike's
trademark Swoosh, is already selling shoes developed
as part of its Breaking2 project. The Nike Zoom Va-
porFly 4% model features an aerodynamic heel and
carbon fiber plate, which Nike says will make runners
4 percent more efficient than its previous top-line
marathon shoe. The price: $250 a pair.
"Breaking2 is a quest to fully measure the extent
of what the body is capable of," the company said
by email. "Nike is looking to push the limits of hu-
man potential through product innovation, smarter
training and an optimised environment---helping our
athletes run what has never been run before."
The publicity generated by Nike's recent attempt,
which was streamed live on the internet from a course
festooned with red-and-white Swooshes, may have
already helped the company reach millions of fitness
fanatics and weekend athletes.
Running gear accounts for about 45 percent of the
sporting goods market, according the market research
"The running market is huge," said Samantha Do-
ver, a retail analyst at Mintel. Runners "like to have
goals, to measure performance, to record it for future
motivation. The aspiration element is helping to drive
And it's not just shoes. It's fabrics that wick sweat
from your skin, fitness tracking apps and wristbands
that monitor your speed. Millennials in particular
are looking for gadgets that push the boundaries of
"Utilising emerging technologies to enhance elite
athlete performance in areas such as nutrition and
training will unlock opportunities for these technolo-
gies to enter additional compelling markets, whether
they be a broad consumer market or even one like
the military," said David Carter, executive director
of the Sports Business Institute and professor at the
University of Southern California Marshall Business
Nike says it started the Breaking2 programme three
First it selected three top athletes based on their
oxygen use, energy consumption and ability to sustain
speed over long distance. Initially, the programme
worked to refine their training by monitoring perfor-
mance with GPS watches and heart monitors. Then
it went a step further, measuring skin temperatures
to determine the perfect race conditions and sweat
rates to develop personalised hydration mixtures.
Finally, Nike took over the Monza racetrack in It-
aly for what was essentially a 26.2-mile experiment
rather than a race.
The flat Formula One course with gentle curves
provided ideal conditions for the three marathoners,
who were supported by 32 other athletes who ran in
groups of six to form a wind-breaking wedge and keep
them on pace. Moped riders delivered their specially
formulated drinks: No scrambling at the drink table
at this race.
Eliud Kipchoge came agonisingly close to the goal,
finishing in 2:00:25. One second a mile faster and he
would have made history.
Although Kipchoge beat Dennis Kimetto's world
record of 2:02:57, his time won't be recognised be-
cause the event wasn't sanctioned by track and field's
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