THERE IS NO INHERENT REASON WHY THE IDEA of a man covering 26 miles and 385 yards in less than 120 minutes should be so appealing to an audience beyond fans of elite marathon running. But, like the ascent of Everest and the four-minute mile before it, the sub-two-hour marathon has captured the wider public’s imagination, standing as a powerful metaphor for the triumph of human effort against seemingly impossible odds.
The first concerted shot at the record took place in Italy, in May, with Nike’s Breaking2 project. As our behind-the-scenes feature on page 54 details, it was an attempt to see what would happen if you combined the best sports science and equipment, a carefully considered location and precise tactics with three of the best marathon runners in the world. It’s fair to say that Eliud Kipchoge’s time shocked a lot of observers, me included, and has blown the doors of possibility wide open.
The event attracted criticism from some purists, who argued that the stage-managed nature of it went against the true spirit of race running – and it’s true that Kipchoge’s epic effort won’t stand as a world record because it wasn’t done in a recognised race environment.
But ultimately this attempt, and the others that will surely follow, are good for the sport, as they give marathon running an exciting new dimension that make it of interest even to nonrunners. It’s running’s very own space race. ANDY DIXON EDITOR