Breaking2: Minutes Before Launch

Fun Fact: My flight was delayed on the way to Milan from NYC due to newly elected President Trump’s arrival at JFK.

I may have also just lost my health insurance due to the wildly panned healthcare bill that was recently passed.

F*ck.

But that’s neither here nor there cause I’m in Milan to see history.

If you haven’t been keeping up Nike has set on a path to break one of the last milestones in running, the 2 hour marathon mark. Below is a quick refresher as well as an inside look at all the pre race scoops we are being given in Milan by the team that’s been forged to make this Breaking2 dream a reality.

What is Happening and Why is it Important?

<2 hours in the marathon. It’s arguably the last great feat in running.

Similar to going undefeated in an NBA season or undefeated in the NFL. Back to back. With no injuries.

Nike has assembled a team of sports scientists, athletes, statisticians, etc to beat what many argue isn’t evenly humanly possible from a physiology standpoint. Some say it is though.

We’ll see soon.

Who is Running?

Three of the greatest marathon runners of our time, Desisa, Kipchoge, and Tadese. We were told today that at first a pool of 16–18 athletes were chosen but it dwindled down to 3 based on the following characteristics: VO2 max, running economy, and sustained velocity.

The sports science team likened it to a car. Essentially how big is their individual engine (VO2 max), how many miles per gallon can they get (economy), and how hard can they go before they bonk (sustained velocity). This was the magic mix they needed.

After testing for these facts they were left with the big guns. The Trinity I’ve coined em. Most experts believe Kipchoge has only realistic shot of meeting mark.

What Special is Being Done?

What ISN'T being done? Basically, you have to create the perfect storm of an internal athlete state and external environment for this to happen.

Climate needs to be controlled.

8–12 Celsius, low humidity, wind low, and an early start so it doesn’t get too hot thus the 5:45 AM local time start.

A course with no sharp turns to preserve energy. A Tesla part of the pacing team. Motorcycles delivering constant individualized hydration.

Monza running course created on a F1 race track was chosen for this reason as well as an insane drafting pacing strategy that utilizes a team of elite runners that includes Bernard Lagat among others. You can read more about that here and while the course is IAAF sanctioned it won’t be eligible for the world record due to factors such as delivered hydration, pacing strategy, etc.

Nike openly admitted that’s not the point of the race. Pushing the boundaries of human performance to grow the sport of running is.

What Stood Out to You?

Nutrition, data, and the gear.

Nutrition is relatively basic, which Brett Kirby (lead sports scientist) openly admitted. Many of the runners have never been coached on nutrition so even small changes made huge differences. What is novel is the specific mix of sugars and the frequency of hydration that will be needed during the race. They will lose 1–2 liters of sweat an hour. Not ideal.

Recovery during training was key. Basically if they weren’t training they were sleeping or getting massages. Or going slow. VERY SLOW

The amount of data the team would aggregate to share with each individual camp was astounding. The wave of biometrics is really here but what’s still most important is how the coach interprets it.

Learn more about those strategies here.

From the socks to the sleeves every bit of gear has been customized. Different compression on the quads instead of hips to ensure optimal movement. Nano fibers in the arm sleeves for the best fit. Nodes on the clothing to work against wind resistance. The upper of the shoe has been customized according to the foot molds of each runner. Crazy.

Even if you think it’s all fluff, you can’t discount enclothed cognition.

What’s the Deal with the Shoes?

The Nike Zoom Vaporfly Elite is what each of the three runners will compete in. When Nike first started out to create this shoe they were too enamored with keeping it light which many runners complained about. 20k steps, 3x body weight force per step you’ll need cushioning.

They switched to making it right instead of light.

This eventually evolved into the Zoom X foam technology, a foam that gives back 80–90% of energy to the runner so less is lost per step. The current best shoe only does 60%. There’s also a carbon fiber plate and all these aspects come together to make runner more efficient. Additional here, including the similar shoe that will be released to public

Will it Happen?

I think so but granted I’m biased and optimistic. Many experts aren’t so rosy.

Other Fun Facts:

Galen Rupp was first athlete to test updated version of shoe. I sat next to him in a Best Western once eating a continental breakfast.

The tape being used on the legs of the athletes has been in development since the Sydney Olympics (2000)

The coaches talked so much about the mental hardships of racing against the clock instead of runners. The emphasis placed here makes me wonder where the heads of the runners are at.

Scientist team coyly hinted that a negative split but instead an “even race” would be key to getting this done. Is there a fear of getting gassed at 20 mile mark which many experts have predicted?

The runners will have to average 13.1 mph which is well below a 5 minute mile pace. For 26.2 miles. Wow.

You can stream the race here, 11:45 EST. I’ll be having live look-ins from Monza on Instagram and Twitter so be sure to keep up with me there!

Note: May or may not be slightly jet lagged and on my iPhone so please excuse any errors