There is a commercial on TV that has the tag line “It’s not of fast you mow, it’s how you mow fast”. Like many really good commercials, you remember the commercial but can not remember the product being advertised. I often wonder if the ad agency gets credit or slammed by their client if the commercial “goes viral” but no one can remember the product.
Anyway, I have been thinking about how that commercial might relate to the recent attempt to run the marathon distance in less than 2 hours Although it is not a multi-sport event, it is an attempt to prove the ability of the human body at an endurance event.
Back in the 1950’s, it was believed that humans could not run the mile in under 4 minutes until Dr. Roger Banister proved everyone wrong with a 3:59.4 on May 6, 1954. Lately, it has been the sub 2-hour marathon that has been the subject of studies. Mostly, it has been the analysis of the improvement in marathon race times and the extrapolation of the data on a graph and the estimation of the date when the sub two-hour marathon will be achieved. Like with all improvement, initial gains are large and as time progresses, the incremental improvements become smaller and smaller and harder and harder to achieve.
Nike wanted to accelerate the timeline with a special project with hand selected athletes and all the support needed to achieve the goal. They selected the anniversary of Dr. Bannister’s run to try to achieve the sub 2-hour marathon. The runners were hand-picked. The course, a race car course, specifically selected because of the lack of elevation change. The time of day for the air temperature. There would be multiple pacers, not the same ones who started with the athletes who were trying to break the 2-hour marathon time. There was support on mopeds with fuel and hydration so the runners would not have to slow to get their drinks. It was never to be a world record, there are rules that dictate the conditions under which a world record can be accomplished. This attempt was to prove that the 2-hour marathon barrier could be broken. If it could be broken under ideal conditions, then maybe, just maybe it could be broken on a IAAF certified course.
I went to bed at 9 pm last night. The attempt was to begin at 11:45 pm EDT in the USA. For whatever reason, I woke at 1:38 a.m. It took no time for me to realize I had time to find the Nike website on my phone to watch the attempt. I found the site via the Facebook link but had to mute the sound so not to wake my wife. I saw them running but it was not the arrowhead shape of the pacers was not as it had been described in the pre-race post. I left the bedroom and went to the living room where I could bring up the sound and not disturb my sleeping wife. There was no clock in the image but as I saw the pacers fall away, I knew the finish line was close but I had no idea of the time. When Eluid Kipchoge broke the tape, I saw the clock but my bleary eyes thought it was only a quarter seconds off the goal. After some time, realized it was 25 seconds off the mark. But, still, there was celebration on at the site and those, like me, who were awake around the world realized that a sub-2 hour marathon is possible and it will be a accomplished very soon.