2017 goals
December 12, 2016 6:44 AM   Subscribe

Nike announced this morning that they are embarking on a plan to break one of running’s most formidable barriers—the two-hour marathon, in 2017. posted by roomthreeseventeen (43 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Saying "nobody has come close" to a two-hour marathon when the record is 1.6% off the mark seems to me to be an arbitrary definition of "close".
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 6:49 AM on December 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


A 1.6% improvement is huge. Not insurmountable (at least Nike doesn't think so), but pretty big. The thing that's curious to me is the lack of details of how they will be doing this. If it isn't going to be during an official marathon, and they are just attempting the record at a marathon distance, that's a whole 'nother thing.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:53 AM on December 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yay I get to be the first to point out that this project is called Breaking 2.

I don't know. On the one hand, I see the appeal of breaking round-number thresholds because it brings a lot of press and attention to the sport. On the other hand, it completely excludes female athletes. I'd like to see a parallel effort to break 2:15 or even 2:10 in the women's race.
posted by mama casserole at 7:01 AM on December 12, 2016 [11 favorites]


I cry crass advertising. I guess it's cheaper to throw about arbitrary thresholds than pay for nationwide TV campaign. Also, the runnersworld article mentions Nike too many times to come clean as a pure article of interest.
Post preview: this also excludes the vast majority of humankind, not just women. Hence, I don't believe this will in any way be relevant or interesting to the casual runner.
posted by Laotic at 7:02 AM on December 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


Seems like a job for illegal doping
posted by thelonius at 7:07 AM on December 12, 2016 [21 favorites]


I cry crass advertising. I guess it's cheaper to throw about arbitrary thresholds than pay for nationwide TV campaign. Also, the runnersworld article mentions Nike too many times to come clean as a pure article of interest.
Post preview: this also excludes the vast majority of humankind, not just women. Hence, I don't believe this will in any way be relevant or interesting to the casual runner.


I think it's cool. Advertising's gonna happen regardless, at least here it's in the service of human achievement (see also, Red Bull Stratos).
posted by leotrotsky at 7:07 AM on December 12, 2016


Seems like a job for illegal doping

PED Man to the rescue!

Gee Ped Man, will this EPO really help me go faster?

It sure will, Timmy! Just don't slow down or the blood will get to thick to pump.

Wait, wha-

Good luck, Timmy!

posted by leotrotsky at 7:09 AM on December 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


i hear they're going to drink pepsi blue.
posted by andrewcooke at 7:09 AM on December 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'll be trying to break 1:55 in the half distance this spring, so regardless of advertising, it's pretty cool to see these guys attempt this. And yes, let's see a woman go for 2:14.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:11 AM on December 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


No "Electric Boogaloo," Nike? I am disappoint.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:12 AM on December 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


Why not just make the marathon a mile shorter?
posted by chavenet at 7:12 AM on December 12, 2016 [13 favorites]


One of the most formidable barriers Nike should attempt to break is making shoes larger than a C width. Good lord, their shoes are like vices on my poor feet.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:13 AM on December 12, 2016 [23 favorites]


Is there a course that is 26 miles downhill? With a tailwind?
posted by Bee'sWing at 7:17 AM on December 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


Is there a course that is 26 miles downhill? With a tailwind?

Point-to-point courses aren't eligible for world records. There's a bit more discussion of this in the previously.
posted by mama casserole at 7:19 AM on December 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


Thorzdad: "One of the most formidable barriers Nike should attempt to break is making shoes larger than a C width. Good lord, their shoes are like vices on my poor feet."

Yeah, I've never been able to wear Nikes. On the other hand, I've never been able to break the 2-hour half-marathon so I'm not really the market here.
posted by octothorpe at 7:29 AM on December 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


Why not just make the marathon a mile shorter?

Hell, if they cut off the stupid 385 yards at the end, that's 0.8 percent right there, which is half the time that needs to go.
posted by Etrigan at 7:30 AM on December 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


Is there a course that is 26 miles downhill? With a tailwind?

There's an urban legend that a particular U.S. Army training post had a two-mile straight-line track that was used only for the Army Physical Fitness Test (which includes a two-mile run) and had been built at the exact maximum slope the rules allowed, which seemed to give people as much as a 10 percent advantage.

The legend is that they stopped using it after they realized that people were leaving their initial entry training and promptly failing their first APFT at their new unit, because they would be running an honest track.
posted by Etrigan at 7:33 AM on December 12, 2016


Is there a course that is 26 miles downhill? With a tailwind?

not sure if you are referring to this or not, but it's a thing (for the mile).
posted by andrewcooke at 7:35 AM on December 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


Why not just make the marathon a mile shorter?

Not until they ditch this guy. (can't find the MeFi post)

One of the most formidable barriers Nike should attempt to break is making shoes larger than a C width.

That was partly my point. The problem is the narrow shoe-box which is the norm nowadays. Nike is in no way a company which strives to make quality footwear. They must advertise to sell overpriced crap. I am against such advertising, is all.
posted by Laotic at 7:37 AM on December 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


One of the most formidable barriers Nike should attempt to break is making shoes larger than a C width.

Maybe while they're at it, they can standardize their larger men's shoes on the same numeric system every other shoe maker in the country uses. Yes, Nike, I understand you need to inflate your size measurements so the guy wearing an 8 1/2 can pretend like he's a 9 1/2, because apparently that is a thing that matters. No, it is not a good idea to make that inflation linear, because now I wear a size 17 in your goddamned narrow shoes, and when you ask for that in a store, you get smartass clerks making snowshoe allusions.
posted by Mayor West at 7:49 AM on December 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


Nike is probably banking pretty heavily on teamplay for this attempt, as well: if they put the three best marathoners they can in a single group and have them take turns drafting according to an optimal strategy, they can probably shave a minute or two off over 26 miles.
posted by fifthrider at 8:03 AM on December 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


Much like how Guinness won't take new entries for stuff like "most cigarettes smoked at once" anymore - will there not come a certain point where there's just no way to beat one of these records without literally killing some elite runners in the attempt?
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:08 AM on December 12, 2016


I hope these three runners are getting paid handsomely
posted by rossmeissl at 8:12 AM on December 12, 2016


Seems like a job for illegal doping

Or mini chocolate donuts, worked for Belushi in the decathlon.
posted by e1c at 8:16 AM on December 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


This seems like it would be pretty easy - they just need to go faster. Even if they only go a little faster each mile, that will add up, because a marathon is many miles (can't look up how many right now, on my phone, but it's like at least 10 or 20 if i recall correctly). But there you go, problem solved - the answer is speediness. Why don't they make me a runner coach?
posted by Greg Nog at 8:29 AM on December 12, 2016 [20 favorites]


Go Nike! I am rooting for you.
posted by benzenedream at 9:04 AM on December 12, 2016


...because now I wear a size 17 in your goddamned narrow shoes, and when you ask for that in a store, you get smartass clerks making snowshoe allusions.

That, or, very envious glances.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:05 AM on December 12, 2016


This isn't going to happen in 2017, and Nike knows it. Sub-2 would lop nearly three minutes off the existing record, which is simply enormous. In terms of equivalents, it would be someone knocking seven seconds off the world record in the mile. In other words, ridiculous.

As for how It's done, simply doesn't matter if it's not done on a certified course that has also been ratified by the IAAF for record eligibility. This rules out the Boston Marathon, for example, because it's a point-to-point course that's downhill, overall. A good, non-technical summary of ratification requirements is here.

Over the past 40 years or so, marathon racing has become very specialized. Up to the early 1970s or so, it was generally a kind of fallback event for distance guys who didn't quite have the natural speed for track races (which top out at 10k), or for older runners who had previously been track aces, but had lost leg speed over time. Also, there simply weren't many opportunities for world-class marathon racing until the 1970s. Now, there are dozens of marathons held each year on fast, flat courses that pay good money to attract world-class runners. And now there are young world class marathon runners like Tsegaye Mekonnen, who ran a 2:04 in 2014 at the age of 19.

Which is to say that marathoners racing in pursuit of fast times (as distinct from winning or placing well) has already reached a state of maturity that pretty much precludes anything more than incremental improvements to the world record.

All that said, it's not impossible in 2017 - just very, very unlikely. And it's fun to think about, which is one great benefit of round-number records.
posted by young_simba at 9:07 AM on December 12, 2016 [7 favorites]


I do hope the record is broken during the Chicago Marathon, because as a Chicagoan I think more cool things should happen there. And if Chicago has one thing going for it in marathon terms, it's flat as hell.
posted by borkencode at 9:14 AM on December 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


One of the things I always notice watching the Boston Marathon is the medics at the finish line, jostling and itching to be the first to get to the winner.

Not too keen on pushing this harder.
posted by ocschwar at 9:17 AM on December 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


Is there a course that is 26 miles downhill? With a tailwind?


The Boston marathon drops like 80', and often does have a tailwind. Which is why it was not eligible for the Olympic course, yet another reason Boston invited the IOC to depart in peace and engage in creative autoeroticism in private.
posted by ocschwar at 9:18 AM on December 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


Well one of the major indicators of speed at marathon distances is small and light weight feet. Yep, it adds up. So Nike could potentially do something ground breaking with shoes and runners who have a perfect stride could shave a tiny bit off each effort which adds up.

Having said that Paula Radcliffe had possibly the most awful running form ever so technology and form is only one avenue of pursuit.
posted by fshgrl at 9:53 AM on December 12, 2016


No chance.

The current record is 2:02:57, so you need to take 177 seconds off of the race. That's 6.75 seconds per mile. I will admit upfront that this is an unfair comparison, but if you took just one second off the mile record the running community would collectively wet itself. The marathon record is probably a little soft, but not by that much.

To break sub 2 you'd need to reduce the time by 2.4%. Usain Bolt took the 100m WR from 9.74 to 9.58, about 1.6%. Reducing it by 2.4% would have meant taking it down to 9.51. His assault on the 200m WR ended up reducing it by less than 1%.

It's not enough to find the Usain Bolt of marathoning. You need someone better than that.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 10:14 AM on December 12, 2016 [8 favorites]


I do hope the record is broken during the Chicago Marathon, because as a Chicagoan I think more cool things should happen there. And if Chicago has one thing going for it in marathon terms, it's flat as hell.

I always chuckle when I run a Chicago race and hit "Roosevelt Mountain" near the end.
posted by srboisvert at 10:55 AM on December 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


I can see that breaking this record would be a big milestone in athletic training and performance. But some of the records people claim seem so trivial. "Oldest person with Crohn's Disease To climb Mount Everest" and the like.
posted by thelonius at 10:55 AM on December 12, 2016


My plan to to grow a 27 mile tall human who can "win" a marathon in 93 seconds is slightly hampered by the ~10 megatons of energy released when all that mass falls over. Maybe if I could get the judges to stand really far back. I recognize that this plan is at least slightly less plausible than a 2.4% jump in performance at the world record athlete level.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:22 PM on December 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


Nike released the promised announcement, confirming what several of you suspected: this is just a stunt to sell merch.

"Fueled by a long-standing passion for running, Nike began working on a footwear solution specific to the marathon in 2013. ... the team will obsess (sic) every detail of the Breaking2 attempt, from weather conditions to jerseys ... After years of extensive research and development, Breaking2 will debut a system of groundbreaking innovation that has the potential to elevate every runner."

And I'm sure the new "system" will fly off the shelves--this is actually a pretty ingenious way to convince the everyday runner that they can shave a few minutes off their PR just by buying a pair of temperature-adjusting shorts or whatever that have been meticulously designed for this attempt.

Alas, for those hoping for confirmation of the race course: "The date and location of the sub two-hour race attempt will be revealed next year."
posted by mama casserole at 12:48 PM on December 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


Chicago may not work as an official record, as the finish is one foot lower than the start. I wanna say a marathon in erlin Marathon is where this will happen.


I read a good book about this from Phil Mafetone. He seem to think it's doable, but tricky. Also it may have to happen on a track. Perhaps it could be done tomorrow if drafting was something you could do for the whole race.

It's not like Nike isn't putting mucho dollar into this feet (sic!) already. And people are totally on PED's, let's not kid ourselves.
posted by alex_skazat at 1:10 PM on December 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yeah I bet there will be shenanigans on a grand scale, beyond drafting, there'll be tail winds, or inside running, some kind of jiggery-pokery with the mara itself, there's no way training and gear would get them there, I reckon.
posted by smoke at 1:45 PM on December 12, 2016


I'm not a runner. I mean I try to get out and lope around for a couple of miles a couple of times a week but that's totally different than actual running. But I'm also a nerd, so let's think about what an organization with approximately infinite money could bring to this problem.

First, and obviously, you can hire the best runners in the world. This is the absolute minimum.

Second, you can do a bunch of testing and determine the ideal conditions with regards to altitude, temperature, and so on. Don't be shocked if the big attempt happens in the middle of the night.

You can have your runners live in Denver, or Leadville, or Lima, or some other high altitude location to boost their red blood cell count without doping.

You can design absolute special purpose clothing that might not actually be skin tight. You might put some extra padding on the back of the legs and torso to get a more Kamm tail profile and reduce drag. You can engineer and build shoes custom fitted to each runner with aerodynamic covers for the laces and the shoe-ankle interface area to reduce drag. Each runner's shoe can have the exact optimized spring coefficient for each runner to minimize energy loss. Furthermore, these needs need only last for one attempt.

You can have each athlete get a fresh head shave just before the attempt or, more interestingly, shave and then grow an exact length of hair optimized to energize the flow and delay separation as long as possible off the back of the head.

Each runner can wear custom, tightly fitted glasses that smooth the flow of air around the nose and eyes.

Finally, as was mentioned, you can do a lot of testing and derive an optimal pacing/drafting strategy.

I'm not saying that all of this is practical, or allowed, or even very beneficial, but strictly from an engineering viewpoint it seems like there are bunch of things you could theoretically do that have the potential to help.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 8:28 PM on December 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


It's Never Lurgi: "The current record is 2:02:57, so you need to take 177 seconds off of the race. That's 6.75 seconds per mile."

Or just run two miles, maybe the first two, in 3 minutes each. Then coast the rest of the way.
posted by chavenet at 9:27 AM on December 13, 2016


They said they'll break 2 hours, they didn't say they'd do it on a WR-certified course.

So you get a point-to-point with a significant net-downhill and tailwind, a roster of pacers, and on a 40 degree day with 15-20 mph winds at your back, 2 hours is a very strong 'maybe'. It'll make headlines and wow the hobby joggers and nobody will really care that it's not a real world record because Nike will have had their name plastered all over this (since Adidas has all but taken over the competitive distance running shoe) and that's Nike's purpose here.

Blah blah blah, Nike Nike Nike
posted by splen at 9:56 AM on December 13, 2016


Hell, I can do a marathon in 93 seconds, just drop me from 26 miles in the air.

nb, the Earth's atmosphere is about 7.5 miles high but you get the idea
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:15 AM on December 13, 2016


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