MILAN (AP) — On the 63rd anniversary of Roger Bannister breaking the four-minute mile, three elite athletes will attempt to run through another barrier — the two-hour marathon.
Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge will lead the attempt on Saturday at the Formula One track in Monza, along with two-time Boston Marathon winner Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia and Eritrean half-marathon world-record holder Zersenay Tadese.
They are bidding to run 26.2 miles (42.2 kilometers) in less than two hours. The world record over the distance is 2 hours, 2 minutes, 57 seconds, set by Dennis Kimetto of Kenya in Berlin in 2014.
The Breaking2 project comes from sportswear company Nike. It will not be an official world record attempt, however, because of variables such as pacers entering mid-race and drinks being given to runners via mopeds.
Kipchoge, widely considered the best marathon runner in the world, is the biggest favorite of the three.
“You know, running is actually thinking,” the 32-year-old Kenyan said. “If your thoughts are halfway then you can’t finish, so you really need to focus fully and think positively.”
Kipchoge’s personal best time of 2:03:05, the third fastest time ever, was set at the London Marathon last year and is eight seconds off the world record.
Breaking two hours would mean bringing down Kimetto’s average pace of 4:41.5 minutes per mile by about seven seconds — an extraordinary challenge for elite runners already at the limit.
Along with a shoe that designers say will make runners 4 percent more efficient, organizers believe that running world record pace should be fast enough to break two hours because of the extra benefits available to the runners.
The course will also play a major part. The Monza track was selected after extensive research that included average temperature, air pressure and wind levels.
The three men, who have been training since last year for the attempt, will take 17 1/2 trips around a 1.5-mile loop.