Friday, May 5, 2017

No One Will Break 2:05

The attempt to break 2 hours in the men's marathon is on tonight.

Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uvhSgxUdsdQ

A couple of thoughts:

1. The goal pace is unsustainable. The bonking will begin earlier than most expect; this attempt will be over by 20 miles - 21 on a great day for Kipchoge. No one will break 2:05.

2. I hope this fails.

It pains me to say this, as Eliud Kipchoge is in so many ways one of my favorite runners - one of my favorite people in the sport. I have nothing but admiration for the Olympic champion who was a world champion at age 19 at 5,000m and who reinvented himself after a long downturn in his career as one of the three greatest marathoners in history.

This is a misguided effort. It is using every technical advantage available in terms of equipment and pacer strategy - shoes with a well-advertised 4% advantage as well as pacers jumping in and out, an acknowledged violation of international rules.

What's the point?

If successful in breaking either 2:00:00 or the world record of 2:02:57 it will come with multiple asterisks and will be as unwieldy as a discussion of the women's marathon world record - Paula Radcliffe's male pacer-assisted 2:15:25 or Mary Keitany's 2:17:01 in a women's only race? Which is it?

Do I secretly hope to see a sub-2:00:00? Any barrier is intriguing and clearly this attempt is bringing attention to the sport.

But it's the wrong kind. The very setup acknowledges that going beyond the standards of the sport is the only way breaking 2:00:00 can currently be accomplished.

This dishonors the man in the future who is the first to break this most unlikely of barriers legitimately and according to the rules. Imagine if Roger Bannister had had a different pacer jump in for every 400m.

This attempt is bad for our sport.

(Note: I added the Bannister observation about 35 minutes into the race. It came from an idea that occurred to me during an online conversation with my nephew about the sub-2 attempt and what it meant to have fresh pacers the whole way.)

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