May. 6th, 2017

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Last night I watched most of the the first Nike #breaking2 attempt at a 1:59:59 marathon.
This has been in the works for three years, partly (mostly?) as a publicity stunt for Nike, but partly as an exercise science and technology experiment to see whether a person can run 26.2 miles in less than two hours. Extraordinary runners have come relatively close under sort of normal circumstances (the record is held by Dennis Kimetto, who won the Berlin marathon in 2014 at under 2:03). To give maximum advantage, many famous runners were screened. Three were chosen, plus a group of 30 pacers, and then Nike scientists developed custom made shoes, clothes (compression shorts made to the runners' exact measurements, etc), gels, and so forth. There was a pace car, on a formula one track (so no potholes to worry about, unlike Boston), and the time was chosen for ideal temperature.
I had planned to watch until midnight (it started at 11:45 EDT, because it started at 5:45 AM in Italy. I finally turned off the iPad (it was streaming) after 1 AM, when the last runner who had been keeping the required pace slowed down by a second at about 30 KM. When I checked this morning (after about five hours of sleep, because I tend to wake up when the sun does), he had clocked 2:00:25. Oh, well. It was still fascinating to watch, and to learn about. The background part I liked best was about the shoe design. The Nike company folks assumed the runners would want something minimalist (for weight reduction) with modified spikes. Nope. One of them said "not lightweight, but the right weight." They knew they would be running on pavement, and wanted some cushioning, as long as it wasn't *too* heavy. The shoes have received a lot of publicity about whether it's a cheat, because they have a reboundy thing inside (not the technical language). It does seem to make the foot strike and follow through look a little different to me.
Science! and People!
http://www.runnersworld.com/2-hour-marathon/so-close-kipchoge-runs-a-20025-in-the-breaking2-attempt?internal_recirc=hpblock1
Other organizations are working on it as well, but it's fairly arbitrary - the marathon is its current length because of the 1896 Olympics. The distance to carry the news in the original run was a bit shorter. Also, why is two hours magic?

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