Why Last Week's Nike Marathon Was a Dog and Pony Show

Runners Attempt A Sub-2 Hour Marathon

Last week, heralded long distance runner Eliud Kipchoge attempted to run a marathon in under 2 hours, and it was broadcast LIVE on the internet by Nike. Just as a refresher, a marathon is 26.2 miles of distance, so not an easy task to complete. And in the end, Kipchoge didn’t quite reach that monumental milestone, finishing his marathon in 2:00:25. So is this now considered a failure?

Physiologists have long been split about whether a human being would ever break the 2 hour mark. One guy, Dr. Michael Joyner, published a paper in 1991 predicting that a human would run a marathon as fast as 1:57:58. But others disagree.

On LetsRun.com this week, Robert Johnson claimed that he was pretty confident Kipchoge wouldn’t break the 2-hr mark. He referenced a piece he wrote a few years ago called, “The Myth of The Sub-2-Hour Marathon. In it, Johnson concluded that humans were a long way off from hitting that mark. And although Kipchoge came close this week, it’s a record that’s likely to remain intact for a much longer time to come.

So how did Kipchoge come so close to breaking the mark? There were a couple factors at play for him. Firstly, he had a Tesla driving in front of him, carrying a giant clock. It might not seem like a huge deal but even if the wind resistance shaved off a couple seconds for him each mile, it could result in him finishing the race anywhere from 3-5 minutes faster. Secondly, Nike has come out and said that they weren’t aware of what liquids he was drinking during the race. Huh? Considering this was Nike’s own race, it seems odd that they wouldn’t monitor every little element.

Although there isn’t a consensus about how much faster Kipchoge might have finished thanks to these controlled factors, common sense would tell us that these helped him considerably. And the critics would note that despite all these measures to help him, Kipchoge still failed to finish the race in under two minutes.

So was this just another dog and pony show for Nike? For the most part, yes. The brand certainly knows marketing better than most, and it was successful in claiming this event a huge victory for physiology. The only real victors here are the folks at Nike.

Hardcore marathon runners, the ones who are crazy enough to run 26 miles through a crisp New York City in November without wind resistance, see Kipchoge’s marathon as deserving an asterisk. Let’s see a sub-2-hour marathon during, you know, a real marathon.

Share This Story On Facebook