Nike’s Plan for a Sub 2:00 Marathon

Nike announced a project dedicated to breaking two hours in the marathon by 2017.

Here are the facts:

They’ve selected three athletes who will attempt the feat in 2017. They are:

Eliud Kipchoge

The best marathoner in the world right now, and has the best chance of anyone.

Lelisa Desisa

A great young marathoner who’s wins are more impressive than his times.

Zersenay Tadese

The half marathon world record holder (58:23), but he’s over-the-hill and has failed in every marathon he’s tried. I assume he’s there to pace or something?


These athletes will no doubt have the highest paid / qualified sports doctors along with coaches working with them to optimize their training and attempt.

Nike has acknowledged that this will not be a record eligible marathon. This likely means that it will be:

  • A downhill and/or point-to-point course
  • There could be pacers taking turns every few miles OR pace “cars”
  • Athletes may have access to fluids more often than the set every 5k
  • Other things I haven’t read about yet

The current marathon world record is 2:02:57 by Dennis Kimetto in Berlin, 2014.

My thoughts

This is good and bad, though probably more bad.

The Good

The best marathoner on the planet.

The best marathoner on the planet.

This no-doubt brings a big public spotlight to professional running which struggles to appeal to the masses.

I don’t like Nike, but they’re the big dog in running, and they’re putting effort into publicizing running. That’s good.

If they succeed, regardless of how (despite jumping off a cliff), this will be history.

The Bad

Where to start…

In my opinion, we’re very far away from the two hour marathon.
Even with the aid listed above, I think the chances of this being successful are between 0-1% unless something dramatic changes. Even when marathons go out really slow, the second half is never run in sub 60:00. I have no reason to believe someone is capable of two sub 60:00s.

You’re omitting arguably the greatest runner of all time – Kenenisa Bekele.
bekele-and-kipchogeBekele is fresh off of a 2:03:13 in Berlin out-running Wilson Kipsang (another guy worth considering). He’s proven he’s one of the best marathoners, and if anyone is capable of beating Kipchoge, Bekele is first on that list.

This prevents the Kipchoge-Bekele duel in London.
Many anticipated these two toeing the line in London this year and settling the debate of who’s better. This is no longer in the cards if Kipchoge focuses on this.

If it’s done, it will make “normal” marathons look slow to the common fan.
If the public sees a sub 2:00 marathon, it will diminish great performances slower than it to people who don’t follow running. A 2:05 in New York (G. Mutai), for example, does not inspire amazement despite being amazing an performance when sub 2:00 is the anchor that the public now has.

Fortunately, I don’t think it will happen.


It will bring attention to the sport which is absolutely good, and I like out-of-the-box ideas like this. But this seems a bit gimmicky to me.

Regardless, I’ll be interested to see what Nike comes up with, and as a running fan, I will follow its development closely.

As I said, I don’t see this being successful (… assuming Nike isn’t just pumping them with new PEDs), but I give credit to Nike and the athletes for trying