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April 19, 2017

Could Bekele’s London performance overshadow Nike’s Breaking2 pipe dream?

What you are about to indulge in is a lightly-edited transcript between Citius Mag’s Stephen Kersh and Paul Snyder. They discussed Bekele’s chance at a world record this weekend in London, as well as Nike’s Sub-2 Project; however, it’s mostly just Paul asking Stephen questions he is no where near qualified, nor prepared, to answer with confidence.

Fellow Citius Mag contributor Scott Olberding penned a nice and nerdy piece for Track Stats that touches on some of the same questions Paul and Stephen lingered on for too long. Check it out!

Also, if you can’t get enough of the rapport between Stephen and Paul, make sure to subscribe to their podcast. They promise it’s great.


Paul Snyder (PS): Hey Stephen, as Citius Mag’s Resident Marathon Boy, I have a question for you. Do you think there’s a chance that the winner of this weekend’s London Marathon runs faster than the top finisher at Nike’s May 1st bid at a sub-2 hour marathon?

Stephen Kersh (SK): Hi Paul. As the Resident Marathon Boy, I use the power bestowed upon me by Citius Mag to proclaim loudly: Yes, I believe there’s a great chance. The great chance hinges upon Kenenisa Bekele. If he wins the London Marathon, I believe it will be in a faster time than the Sub-2 marketing marathon produces. Is that crazy, Paul? Have I become unhinged?

PS: I don’t think you’re unhinged at all. The marathon is kind of a numbers game, is it not? The more able bodied runners you get to the line, the greater the odds somebody runs fast. Nike’s counting on three men. Of the three guys slated to attempt sub-2 in Italy (Eliud Kipchoge, Lelisa Desisa, Zersenay Tadese), how many can we safely assume will blow up?

SK: Absolutely. It is also a RACE. Amazing performances come from racing. This isn’t to say the Sub-2 Project won’t produce mind-boggling performances, but race performances produce mind-boggling results, too. Obviously London will have rabbits for the front groups, so I guess it’s a misnomer to call it a “pure race,” but it’s more of a race than Sub-2 in my opinion.

In terms of blowing up, I think we can count on Tadese to bring those boys through 20K – 25K on pace before he fades, and then the assumption is Desisa will be able to go far enough to where Kipchoge doesn’t have to run alone for too long. Kipchoge is the only one of those runners who has shown he is remotely close to capable of getting under this INSANE barrier. Which it is. It is insane. It almost strikes me as negligent to bill this as something a human is ready for in 2017.

PS: Agreed. It seems like there just wasn’t much of a build-up from the initial announcement of the sub-2 attempt to the actual attempt itself. Kipchoge cutting 3+ minutes off of his best doesn’t seem plausible. And the fact that he’s one man into whom all the marbles have been tossed doesn’t bode well. If you take the ten best marathoners in the world today and have them run faster than PR pace for as long as they can, how many of them blow up or drop out? 7? 8? And the other guys probably will still slow down. I just don’t like the odds.

But still, it’s a long leap from saying “Sub-2 won’t happen” to “somebody will run faster than Kipchoge does in Italy, this weekend in London.” Who do you see as the most likely to do so? There’re obviously more guys in London who are fit and fast, so if somebody blows up, it’s not a lost cause.

SK: To me, it makes way more sense someone will run faster this weekend. You’ve got three sub-2:05 guys (Bekele, Tesfaye Abera, and Feyisa Lelisa) and Bedan Karoki, who is making his debut. There is as much, if not more, talent at London this weekend than the Sub-2 attempt can boast. Other than Dubai, Bekele hasn’t performed poorly in a marathon and I’m confident he will run well this weekend. Plus, he’s got his own group of scientists monitoring his every movement and I’m sure he will have that Maurten drink and those silly shoes. Damn. Typing this out, I’m realizing this is a pretty hot take, which I will continue to lean in to.

You ready for it?

OK here it is:


PS: Whoa! I don’t hate the heat of that take. Do you dare speculate on his time? How about what happens with Kipchoge? Is it possible multiple finishers at London actually run faster than him, or is that too irresponsible to predict?

SK: It’s incredibly irresponsible to predict these things, so I will do it. To me, Bekele is the only one in the field capable of running in the extreme low 2:03s, and a possible WR. Lilesa is great, but I don’t believe he has the transcendent talent of Bekele. Karoki is a known entity, but his marathon credentials are nil at the moment. Abera could hang the longest of anyone at London, I think. He set the 30K WR en route to his win at Dubai. That seems good to me, Paul! But none of them are Bekele.

With regards to Kipchoge, I’m sure he will run very very fast in Italy. He’ll flirt with 2:00 longer than anyone ever has in history, probably. But, I really want to think all the aspects of competition will push Bekele to a record and a faster time than whatever that darn petri dish science experiment produces.

PS: Whoa! In terms of responsibility we are STAYING OUT LATE ON A SCHOOL NIGHT, baby. So to summarize what you’ve boldly forecasted, Bekele runs near or under the WR in London. (Let’s put his extremely ambitious over/under at 2:03:00.)

And you also think Kipchoge will be on 1:59:59 pace for, say, 35K before crashing (it’s happening on a Formula 1 track — that’s good fuckin’ comedy). Yeah?

SK: You’re really setting me up for disaster here. Our fanbase will undoubtedly @ me after Bekele runs 2:10, causing me to fall into a dark abyss of existential questioning. But, I’ll take the bait. Bekele runs 2:02:43 to set a new world record.

With regards to Kipchoge, I’ll say he is on 1:59:59 (27:27 10K pace, btw) for 30K before he is totally alone and faces his own line of existential questioning. Why wouldn’t Nike have pacers who cycle in and out for every 5K? If the record won’t be ratified, it makes no difference right? Sorry — that’s for another time. I’m tired of this banter. Thanks for getting me to say things I will most certainly look back on and regret in the near future.

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