Eliud Kipchoge came within 26 seconds of creating history on Saturday, falling just short of becoming the first person to run a marathon in under two hours. Kipchoge’s time of 2:00:25 smashed Dennis Kimetto's world mark of 2:02:57 and raised hopes that one of world sport's most famous barriers can be broken.
The event was staged by Nike, which created the Breaking2 project in 2014, with the goal of breaking the elusive two-hour time barrier. The race took place near Milan, on the Monza Formula 1 race track, and was closed to the public. Hundreds of thousands were still able to watch via a livestream aired by Nike, and social media was buzzing with anticipation and reaction to what was a memorable occasion.
Kipchoge’s attempt will not go down as an official world record, sanctioned by the IAAF, due to variables like pacers entering mid-race and drinks being given to runners via mopeds.
He ran each mile at an average pace of around four minutes and 36 seconds. To achieve a sub-two clocking, the Olympic champion would have effectively had to run 17 seconds for 100 metres 422 times in a row.
Joined by Eritrea's Zersenay Tadese and Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia, Kipchoge always looked the strongest of the trio and he was on target with seven miles to go, before noticeably beginning to struggle. As he approached the home straight his fatigue was clear. Desisa finished in 2:14.10, while Tadese, 35, clocked 2:06.51.
Kipchoge said: "My mind was fully on the two hours but the last kilometre was behind the schedule. This journey has been good - it has been seven months of dedication."
Nike's big corporate rival, Adidas, is planning its own sub two-hour marathon attempt but wants to do so in a race setting.
Kipchoge has already signaled his intentions to return to regular racing in the autumn with an appearance at Berlin Marathon a possibility. He has won an incredible seven of his eight career marathons.