April 1, 2019
Two years after Breaking2, the marathon-distance exhibition in which Eliud Kipchoge covered 26.2 miles in 2:00:25 with the aid of rotating pacers, Nike announced its latest running initiative, geared toward American marathoners: Breaking2:10.
“We’ve had one guy break 2:10 in the last five years,” said Nike CEO Mark Parker. “Forget competing with Kenya and Ethiopia, or even Japan. Canada had a guy we gave up on break 2:10 last year. So did New Zealand. Norway had a guy run 2:05 a few years ago. We’re a country of 320 million people and all we’ve got is one guy that can do it? Frankly, it’s embarrassing.”
For the attempt — which some are referring to as Breaking2 2: Electric Boogaloo — Nike is pulling out all the stops. It will be held on a specially-constructed downhill course that begins on the banks of the Dead Sea in Jordan, whose oxygen-rich shores are situated at an elevation of 1,412 feet below sea level, and steadily tunnels deeper and deeper underground to harness the effects of so-called “negative altitude.”
“We imagine we may encounter some buried methane gas and a possible rise in temperature in the latter stages of the race as the runners approach the Earth’s mantle,” said Nike Sport Research Lab researcher Brett Kirby, who was also involved in Breaking2. “We’re trying to find a way around that but are confident we’ll have a solution soon.”
Kirby has also been working closely with Bret Schoolmeester, senior director for Nike’s global running footwear, to design a new shoe for the attempt, which will be known as the Vaporfly 40%. Each shoe is equipped with four carbon springs — two each in the forefoot and heel — as well as miniature turbojets attached to the back of the heel.
“There has been a lot of debate as to whether our Vaporfly 4% is actually legal under IAAF rules and whether it confers an unfair advantage,” said Schoolmeester. “That’s not a problem with the 40%. We know the 40% is illegal, but Phil Knight told us specifically: ‘Don’t fuck around with this shit. Just make sure they break 2:10.’”
In addition, there will be a fleet of three Tesla Model 3s equipped with large fans following the runners to give them an extra boost.
“Look, these guys need all the advantages they can get,” Parker said. “I saw that video of Justin Gatlin running 9.45 for the 100 in Japan with all those fans behind him and I knew immediately: we need to bring this to the marathon.”
Nike is mandating that any athlete under contract with Nike who has competed in an event at 800 meters or above has to run the event, which will be held on the weekend of October 19-20.
“I’m not thrilled about it,” said 800 specialist Erik Sowinski, “but John Capriotti said he’d break my mom’s fingers if I didn’t run it.”
Parker is optimistic that the attempt will succeed and said that if it does not, Nike plans on kidnapping the top 10 finishers at NXN next year and forcing them to live and train in a dungeon in Beaverton until one of them breaks 2:10.
Nike also announced that it is debuting a Kenyan version of Breaking2:10. The plan is to send “literally any” of the top 50 marathoners in Kenya to “literally any European marathon” this spring.