Is Breaking2 Cheating?

Breaking2 is Close to Coming to Fruition

Here’s what you need to know about Nike’s outlandish project to conquer the sub two-hour marathon. 

The brand new Nike Zoom VaporFly Elite made gear and news headlines alike last week when they were announced by the company. The shoe announcement brought Nike’s Breaking2 project back into the spotlight and had runners looking closely at the design of the footwear and writers questioning if the new shoes are much farther off than performance enhancing supplements.

Even though the apparel behemoth announced its unthinkable goal at the end of last year, the release of the shoes no one can buy has everyone revisiting the plan Nike set in place. Nike announced their plan to break a sub two-hour marathon in December of 2016 and dubbed it their “Breaking2” project. Here’s everything you need to know about it and why it’s important for the future of the sport.

Why Breaking2 is the “unthinkable”

In 2016 Nike announced that it had been researching and preparing a plan for the last two years to do what has never been done before: have runners run a sub two-hour marathon. Nike itself is calling this project its “mission to mars,” but what does it really mean? Records are continuously broken so why is this one different?

In September of 2014, Dennis Kimetto of Kenya broke the world record for a marathon in Berlin. The world record stands at two hours, two minutes and 57 seconds, which beat the previous world record by 26 seconds. Shaving the time off needed to run a 1:59:59 or better requires about 2.5% to be shaved off the world record. A lot are calling this goal ambitious because many of the best researchers (conservative as they might be) didn’t think the sub two would be run for decades more to come. Breaking this record could be the most significant moment for running since Roger Bannister’s record for the first sub-four-minute mile in 1954.

How are they doing it?

Nike brought together some of the world’s top researchers, engineers, designers, coaches, and not to mention three of the best distance runners to ever live.

The athletes

Nike started with a pool of the hundreds of distance runners sponsored by Nike and eventually narrowed it down to 18 of the most promising candidates. Taking into account the athletes physiology, PRs, room for improvement and attitude, they finally narrowed it down to three: Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya, Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia, and Zersenay Tadese of Eritrea.

The Course

Nike searched for the perfect combination of climate, elevation, surface and terrain to finally land on the Formula One racing oval in Monza, Italy. The Nike team considered locations around the globe before the scientific team decided the track in Monza was the best combination of all of the factors. Just last week the athletes ran a practice half marathon on the course.

The Training

Being part of Breaking2 gives the three runners access to the top training resources money can buy. The tricky part for the runners is finding the right balance between sticking to what has worked for them in the past, and utilizing the staff and resources Nike has to offer. Over the last several months, the runners have stayed where they are currently training (Kenya, Ethiopia and Spain) and used GPS and heart-rate monitors to share data with the Nike team. The Breaking2 team has gone where the three athletes currently reside to share insights from their training data and continue the fitting process for their specialized gear.

The best of both worlds…

The Gear

Talk started to swirl after Nike unveiled the new Nike Zoom Vaporfly Elite shoe on March 7th. Given that Nike is one of the world’s leading apparel companies, it isn’t that shocking that they are coming up with completely innovative gear improvements to help these three runners complete their goal. Until recently the details of these gear enhancements have been kept pretty under wraps.

The runners will be in head-to-toe gear customized and tailored specifically for their Breaking2 run this Spring. The thing that got everyone talking is the new shoe that has been individually designed for each runner. From an ultra-light midsole to a totally dramatic aerodynamic design, the shoe is different from anything that exists. So much so in fact, many people are questioning if this top-of-the-line customized gear is going down the path of unfair performance enhancement. The shoe is without a doubt Nike’s pride and joy from the gear collection for the runners.



“Every detail continues to be scrutinized, observed, and adjusted, but the innovation on the feet of the Breaking2 runners will be undoubtedly the forefront of product innovation – not just at Nike, but in the sport itself.”

Set for Spring of 2017, we aren’t far from the Breaking2 project coming to fruition. Despite the controversy surrounding the intricacies of the gear and the course, Nike is without a doubt pushing the barriers of human capacity and pushing to change the sport as we know it. All eyes will be on Nike, the runners and the clock to see if they can conquer the unthinkable for the first time in history.

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