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.