This weekend, the fastest marathon runner ever will attempt to record an athletic achievement that will go down in history, alongside Roger Bannister’s four-minute mile.
Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge will attempt to break the two-hour mark for the City Marathon in Vienna on Saturday, yet even if he manages to go under the 120-minute mark, it will not go down as an official world record due to the assists he is using to try and go where no human has ever gone before.
Kipchoge is a freak of nature. He has won the last nine marathons he has competed in and holds the official world record of 2:01:39, set in Berlin last year. Yet, the fastest time over 26 miles and 385 yards came when he last tried to break the record, as part of Nike’s Breaking2 project at 2:00:25.
He, alongside Lelisa Desisa and Zersenay Tadese, fell short that time around but Kipchoge, running on his own this time around, will be looking to make the most of the slight advantages that have been put in place to help him along the way.
"I'm running to make history," he told press in the build up to record-breaking attempt
"I'm running to show that there are no limits, no human is limited."
Each element of this race has been considered to give Kipchoge the best chance of success. Vienna was selected as the venue due to its favourable climate and high quality of air, it is also one of the flattest cities on Earth and the course has an incline of just 2.4 metres across the entire route.
It is the perfect place for marathon running. The course has been specially designed to include as few turns as possible, which contributes to a loss of speed for long-distance runners. The course will have two long straights of 2.67 miles, with loops at either end and Kipchoge will do 4.4 laps of the track to make up the distance.
Although it is only the Kenyan’s time that will matter, he will not be running alone. Instead, he will have the help of 41 pacemakers who will protect Kipchoge from the elements and be lead by a pace car that will shine lasers onto the road.
On his feet, the 32-year-old will wear Nike’s ZoomX Vaporfly shoes, specially designed with carbon plates and lightweight foam heels to enhance propulsion, although they are perfectly legal. In fact, the fastest five marathons in history have all been set by athletes wearing a version of this shoe.
The time of the race is still yet to be decided at this late stage but it is likely to be between 5 am and 12 am on Saturday morning, depending on the weather conditions. Kipchoge’s optimal temperature is 10°C but the humidity must also be taken into account.
The world will be watching as Eliud Kipchoge looks to become the first person ever to run a marathon in under two hours.