On Saturday 6th May, history was made. It was not the history that Nike and running fans around the world were hoping for - the elusive sub-two hour marathon - but it was history all the same. Eliud Kipchoge ran a marathon in 2:00:25, obliterating the current world record of 2:02:57 set by Dennis Kimetto of Kenya in 2014. He did not break the two hour mark as intended and his record will not count due to the in-out pace runners, but it doesn't matter: history was made.
Kipchoge lined up on the start line at the Monza F1 track in Italy at 4:45am along with Zersenay Tedese and Lelisa Desisa. The setting had been methodically chosen as the perfect environment for the attempt - the 2.4km laps allowed Nike to strategically place aid stations and pace runner changeovers at the ideal locations. It was partly because of these artificial and highly-controlled conditions that many runners and commentators had criticised the attempt - that and the fact that they were running directly behind a pace car.
As much a scientific experiment as moment in sporting history, Breaking2 was designed to redefine the parameters of human performance. To run a sub two hour marathon, the three runners would have to cover each 5km segment in 14:14 - anyone who's turned up to a parkrun on a Saturday morning will testify to the blistering pace that represents, particularly if repeated over eight times.
Although the conditions were heavily controlled, nothing should be taken away from Kipchoge as an athlete. He ran an incredible time and came unbearably close to breaking the two-hour mark, something that has been called impossible by some. Running at an average pace of around four minutes and 36 seconds per mile, the Olympic champion was astounding on the track - Tedese and Desisa dropped off many miles before the end, but Kipchoge barely looked to be trying until the final half hour, when his gritted teeth and spasms of discomfort betrayed the enormity of the challenge ahead of him. Will he try again? It's unclear whether Saturday's performance was the absolute maximum of Kipchoge's abilities - or if, were the conditions even more favourable, he could shave off those 26 seconds.
What lies ahead will be interesting to follow. Adidas, Nike's big corporate rival, have confirmed plans to attempt a sub two hour marathon, but allegedly in a race setting - something that will please the running purists who condemned Breaking2. Nike may announce a second attempt; no doubt that by analysing the reams of data they will have collected on Saturday, they could create ever more favourable circumstances to run in. In which case, it will become a race to the finish line between the two running giants; a corporate space race in which to frame this moonshot attempt.
If your run isn’t on Strava, did it really happen? It’s the app most used by fitness and running fanatics across the world, with new users and training clubs signing up every day (check out our #Run1000Miles group here). Now, Strava has introduced a brand new feature that will keep you in the loop with pro athletes: athlete posts.
36 Strava athletes from across the world now have the ability to post stories, photos, questions, gear tips, race reports, recommendations and workouts. These athletes include Susie Chan and Rich Mitch, among others. Athletes who are known for going on amazing adventures and telling stories can now share those experiences with the wider running community.
We know what you’re thinking – how come only 36 pro athletes have this function? Well, athlete posts will be available to everyone later this summer, upgrading the app for its entire community. Not only does that mean you can personalise how you share your activities, but you can customise your feed to enjoy more varied content from the people you follow.
“Strava is a place where athletes come to connect with each other, share their experiences and learn from one another,” says Aaron Forth, Chief Product Officer at Strava. “And until now, those connections have been based entirely on athletic activities. Our opportunity is to help athletes have conversations beyond their daily activities, sharing everything from favourite gear to injury recovery tips to travel recommendations. To open up those conversations, we are introducing the ability for members to post new types of content. Ultimately, when you want to engage with friends who share your passion for all things running, cycling, swimming, hiking, or any other sport, Strava is the place to do it.”
Matt Buck: founder of Running Adventures, running coach and guide, and off-road enthusiast!
The Virgin Money London Marathon is done and dusted; you've been thinking about nothing else since at least January and hopefully all your preparation paid off and the day went how you'd imagined it would go while trudging through the rain in the dark throughout winter.
You will be feeling a range of emotions....elation, pride, relief, euphoria and achievement...but now what!? Is that it? For some people, they will be happy with their medal and will hang up their running shoes, satisfied in the knowledge that they've ticked the 'run a marathon' bucket list box. For many others, this will be the start of something special, perhaps a new found love that you can't bear to be without.
With this in mind, I thought I'd offer you some ideas on where to take your running next...
ENTER ANOTHER MARATHON
Hadn't thought of that had you!? In all seriousness though, if you loved the marathon so much then why not simply do it again? There are some amazing marathons to enter all around the world, from small local affairs that cost £10 and you get a piece of cake at the end, to full on running extravaganzas (just like London) that will blow your tired little mind with excitement. Here are a couple of cool Autumn marathons with places still going that might tickle your fancy:
Amsterdam Marathon - They say it's "one of Europe's most popular running events", although places are still available!
Loch Ness Marathon - Beautiful area, cheap entry, and monster sightings guaranteed (not guaranteed, he's gone AWOL!), sounds like a winner to me!
Obviously you now have at least one marathon under your belt now, so you have a PB to chase - if you want some help with this then I can recommend an excellent coach who offers both online and face to face coaching. Learn more here.
Run an ultra
Hang on, running the marathon was tough enough, and quite far enough, thank you. I'm not going any further! Plus marathon training took up too much time as it is!
Well, let me break some good news to you: you can easily run a 50k entry level ultra marathon off the back of marathon training. You will probably even find it easier than the marathon! Why? Many ultras are actually much less stressful affairs than the circus of the London Marathon: you'll be in the countryside, surrounded by nature and you'll have no pressure of getting a PB. You can even WALK if you need to; in fact, walking is ENCOURAGED! I once stopped for an ice cream on the beach when running an ultra, and I ended up winning!
There are loads of cool events to have a crack at, many of which you can find via my friends over at RunUltra. Take a look, and see if anything catches your eye.
Nervous of entering an ultra? Well, why not join one of my guided trail runs? I offer a 30 mile entry level run, where we take our time, enjoy a day out and have a good laugh in the process. If you do decide to move on to ultras, then I can recommend a good coach again!
try trail running
Running roads is hard on your legs, full of things that could run you over and can generally, in my opinion, get a bit tedious. You've got fitness in your legs from months of hard work, so why not take advantage of this new found fitness and try hitting some trails?
The UK has an incredible network of trails and amazing countryside to explore. You will not regret heading into the wild and running some stunning routes. Forget about times and mile splits - simply enjoy being around nature, enjoy the woods, run along the beach, run up the biggest hill you can find and take in the view. Running trails is hugely rewarding and will give you a new lease of life. If you enjoy it, then look at entering a trail marathon (there are plenty of those too!). Also, running trails will get you fitter, faster and stronger, so if you do return to the roads, you'll smash that PB out the water.
If you are nervous about hitting trails on your own, or want to join a group, then it just so happens that I offer guided trail runs of varying distances, from 4 miles upwards, so come along and see what all the fuss is about. If you fancy having your own adventure but don't know where to start with the planning, then I can help with that too! Just get in touch to discuss!
have a rest
Training for, and running, that marathon was bloody knackering, right? You want a rest, right? That's cool, too - enjoy your achievement and enjoy the rest, you've earned it and you deserve it. I would say though, don't stop completely if you have intentions of continuing to run races further down the line, you don't want to be starting from scratch again do you?! Go for a few easy runs over the coming weeks, keep those legs moving and then when you feel ready, dig this blog out again and see if any of the previous suggestions seem more enticing.
Fancy yourself as a festival goer? Good news: The North Face Mountain Festival is returning to Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland, and it doubles up as an action-packed European holiday. Pack your trail running shoes and a hip flask - this is very much an outdoor festival.
Starting from 14-17 September, the event will take place at the foot of the iconic Eiger; a great backdrop to a weekend packed full of adventurous activities. Climbing, paragliding, running, canyon-jumping, hiking - there's a huge array of guided events on offer, but equally as attractive is the prospect of chilling in front of a campfire in this spectacular scenery. Base camp workshops include expedition cookery, adventure photography, and many more. There'll also be live music, inspirational talks from athletes and adventure films to watch.
Doubling in participants from 2016 with an extra night added to the itinerary, this is an event growing at a rapid pace, so don't miss out.
Tickets are available at www.thenorthface.com/innovation/discover/mountain-festival.html with early-bird prices starting from €199.
It's easy to get wrapped up in a isolated, romantic bubble when you think about what trail running really is. For most of us, trail running as a conception is a pastime we use to escape the trials and tribulations of modern life - both to increase our fitness and to spend some alone time in the natural serenity that the outdoors offers in abundance. But for some lucky - read: incredibly talented and hard-working individuals - trail running is a lifestyle. They compete and they train in order to compete. Our beloved hobby is well-established as a sport, even if we don't always think of it like that - and it's growing.
Salomon have today announced that they're increasing their support for five key races in the elite trail running calendar: the Maxi Race in Salomon’s hometown of Annecy, France; the Mont Blanc Marathon in Chamonix, France; the Swiss Alpine Marathon in Davos; the Glen Coe Skyline in Scotland; and the Ultra Pireneu in Spain.
“Our goal in expanding our support of these five races is to better promote trail running by attracting the top talent to race against each other more frequently, but also to turn the races into events that allow the trail running community to come together and celebrate the sport,” said Greg Vollet, Salomon’s Global Trail Running Sports and Community Marketing Manager. ”The elite athletes of our sport have provided us with countless moments of inspiration and, together with our Salomon brand content and community running events, helped grow the sport to a place that seemed unreachable just a few years ago. It’s only fair to reward their efforts.”
So what does this mean to you? Well, in the days leading up to these events, Salomon will stage How to Trail Run workshops, allowing amateurs to receive advice from elite international athletes. There will also be educational conferences on anti-doping control, including how positive controls can happen, the use of food supplements and the dangers of over indulgence on anti-inflammatories.
Now, although this is unlikely to affect whether or not you sign up for a race - most of us aren't going to win whether or not the elites are running, after all - we are definitely excited at the prospect of seeing pro athletes racing against each other more often. Particularly after Kilian Jornet announced his intention to attend this year's Glen Coe Skyline, and will attempt to break the world record for the Bob Graham Round - it currently stands at 13hr 53min, set by Billy Bland in 1982. That we have to see.
Trail running is fast becoming mainstream sport, with high-profile athletes attempting feats that were previously unheard of. If nothing else, 2017 is going to be an interesting year to watch.
Elise Downing - adventurer and #Run1000Miles ambassador - had quite a year in 2016, running 5000 miles around the British coastline completely self-supported, generating a huge amount of public support. In her interview with Trail Running - out now in our current issue - she described it as a heart-warming experience: "The most amazing thing I witnessed was just how incredibly kind people are. I'm still a bit overwhelmed by the generosity I received."
Clearly the spirit of the challenge has stayed with her, as Elise has announced plans to run the Street Child's Sierra Leone Marathon with her mum for charity.
Tackling 35 degree heat and 90% humidity in tropical conditions, Elise and Julie will be running in aid of Street Child, a UK charity which helps some of the poorest children in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nepal and Nigeria to go to school. In Sierra Leone, the charity currently has a particular focus on helping girls to access education, supporting them and their families to build strong futures in a country that’s been through a brutal civil war followed by Ebola.
For mother and daughter Julie and Elise the trip will have particular poignancy, as they meet the mothers Street Child support as well as some of the 1,400 Ebola-impacted orphans who don’t have the opportunity to wish mum a Happy Mother’s Day this year.
As well as being a challenging run, the whole experience is an immersive adventure that both Elise and Julie are really looking forward to (especially the warm-down on one of West Africa’s most beautiful beaches!). “Having mum join me and tackle the half marathon in Sierra Leone is going to be somewhere on the great to hilarious scale," says Elise. "We can't wait!"
The Sierra Leone Marathon will be taking place on the 28th May 2017 in Makeni, Sierra Leone. You can find out more about the race on www.sierraleonemarathon.com or email email@example.com. You can join Elise and get £50 off your package price by using the promo code ‘Elise50’ when you register.
Nike have announced the location for Breaking2, their ambitious attempt to run a sub-two hour marathon - the run will be held at Italy's legendary Monza F1 racetrack. Yes, you did read that correctly: it's a car racing track, which is about as far from the fells as it's possible to get.
There's good reason to be interested, though. No-one has ever run a sub-two hour marathon and this attempt would reimagine the limits of human performance, much in the same way as Roger Bannister's four minute mile. According to Nike, Monza is the perfect staging ground for Breaking2:
Asphalt — while asphalt is the preferred road surface, the Monza track also ensures great consistency underfoot
Cambered sections — the course's lack of banks provides a clear, even pitch throughout the loop
Length — At 2.4km, the course allows for perfect management of pacing, hydration, nutrition and support team transitions
Weather — A 6-year historical weather analysis of Monza with comparative exploration of the fastest marathon conditions in history confirmed the locations potential for optimum performance
Along with news of the location, Nike have unveiled three new models of shoe that will be worn by the athletes in their world record attempts: the Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4%, Nike Zoom Fly and Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 34. Given that the shoes will become available in June, we're assuming that Breaking2 will take place at around the same time...
BREAKING WHAT NOW?
Nike announced Breaking2 to the world late last year - in short, it's their attempt to break the two-hour marathon mark, something previously - and currently, by some - thought impossible. There is, however, quite a lot more going on than that. If successful, Breaking2 would represent a milestone in human athletic performance and would simultaneously showcase the scientific and commercial power of Nike as a sports brand. Some people have argued, however, that even if the attempt is successful the record shouldn't stand as it will have been performed under artificial conditions, not at an official marathon.
The current marathon world record stands at 2:02:57, set by Kenya's Dennis Kimetto in 2014 at the Berlin Marathon. In 1991, Michael Joyner - a polymathic anesthesiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota - calculated that 1:57:58 is the physiological limit for any human being for a marathon, but it would require a perfect athlete in perfect conditions. Nike have, by the looks of this recent announcement, taken care of the perfect conditions. The three athletes they have picked to run are Eliud Kipchoge, Lelisa Desisa and Zersenay Tadese - whether any of them will prove to be perfect is yet to be seen.