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May 1, 2017

What we know about Nike’s Breaking2 project: athletes, pacers, date, streaming information

This weekend will celebrate the 63rd anniversary of Roger Bannister breaking the four-minute mile barrier but Nike begins its audacious quest to break the two-hour marathon barrier.

Three men will set out to become the first people to run a marathon in under 120 minutes. The current marathon world record is 2:02:57 by Dennis Kimetto at the 2014 Berlin Marathon. That will certainly be on watch as a possible secondary goal but we should find out later on in the week whether a ruling has been made on whether the Breaking2 course by Nike is world-record eligible.

For now, this is what we know about the Breaking2 project:

(This will be updated throughout the week as more information comes to be known)

WHO

The race will feature three main protagonists. Naturally, all three are Nike sponsored runners — Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya, Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia, and Zersenay Tadese of Eritrea.

Kipchoge is the best marathoner in the world right now. Kipchoge has run eight marathons in his life and won seven of them, including Olympic gold in Rio. He’s certainly the man to watch in this race and the perfect test case for how close to two hours a human can get right now.

Desisa is as consistent as you can get as a marathoner, finishing on the podium five times at World Marathon Major races. However, most of his success, including wins at the Boston Marathon in 2013 and 2015, have come in more tactical, non-rabbited races rather than a blistering fast, paced effort that we’ll be this weekend. The big question is whether Desisa can thrive is this different type of element.

Tadese, the half-marathon world record holder, has been the aggressor through his career, particularly on the track where he was known for throwing in hard mid-race surges to drop the competition. His accomplishments at shorter distances, however, have not translated to the marathon, where is personal best is just 2:10:41. Tadese hasn’t raced a marathon since 2012, which makes me wonder whether he’s simply there to fill the role of overqualified rabbit.

There will be other rabbits and plenty of them. Based off this picture that was shared on Twitter on Monday morning, there are at least 18 pacing options and they will each be designated to cover certain distances. In addition to Kipchoge, Disesa and Tadese, they will have the assistance of six other runners on the course. The pacers will be coming in and out of the race, it seems.

There are quite a bit of notable names on the list with Bernard Lagat, Stephen Sambu, Sam Chelanga, Andrew Bumbalough, Chris Derrick and other East African runners.

WHEN

The gun will fire at 5:45AM (in Monza), which means 11:45PM EST.

In a video posted by Elite Sports Management International, it was shared with “Four days to go”  as of Tuesday morning. That would make the attempt on Saturday morning.

The pacers as well as the three stars of the Breaking2 attempt have been in Monza since at least Monday. Pacers appear to be participating in some sort of training camp to get down the strategy and formation for Saturday. They were MOVING.

WHERE

The race will be contested on a Formula One race track called the Autodromo Nazionale in the town of Monza, Italy.

The course Nike has set up is 2.4 kilometers in length, so the runners will run a little over 17 and a half loops.

Monza is 15 kilometers north of Milan, so you know where Kipchoge and his entourage will be popping bottles after the race if all goes well.

How to watch

The attempt will be available to watch online. We will have the video embedded here on Citius. It seems Kevin Hart has been added to the broadcast team. Only time will tell.

WHY:

As Donald Sutherland playing Bill Bowerman in Without Limits said, “The real purpose of running isn’t to win a race — it’s to test the limits of the human heart.”

For as much flack as Nike is getting for this being a PR ploy (our colleague Paul Snyder has more on this in his piece here), it will be neat for Kipchoge et al. to ignore the subjective rules our sport has created to determine “record eligibility” and just see how fast a human being is truly capable of running 26.2 miles.

Grab your popcorn and enjoy the ride.

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