How Eliud Kipchoge and the Nike AlphaFly Made History

Oct 14, 2019 | Luis Torres |

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Eliud Kipchoge and some of the world’s best runners were on a mission Saturday morning in Vienna, Austria. The goal was to do the unprecedented, the impossible — the fastest marathon in human history.

#Breaking2

Since 2014, Nike has been at the forefront of innovative running technology to serve a specific purpose — breaking the 2-hour mark for a marathon. To put it into perspective, that’s running 26.2 miles at a 4:34 pace. Consistently.

It’s never been done before. Up until Nike’s #Breaking2 campaign, the goal was very much taboo and unheard of.

In spring of 2017, Nike gathered three different runners of the highest caliber to take on the daunting task. In doing so, Nike debuted the Nike Zoom VaporFly Elite. Each of the three runners who participated in the initial #Breaking2 campaign were given a shoe that tailored to their specific needs engineered by Nike’s newest technology.

Nike Zoom VaporFly Elite
Nike Zoom VaporFly Elite

At the time, the Nike Zoom VaporFly Elite was the best running shoe Nike had created. The main goal of the shoe was to propel the runners while keeping them light on their feet.

The ZoomX midsole sat below a carbon-fiber plate for maximum responsiveness as a means to maximize energy return for the runners. It prioritized efficiency while simultaneously helping one glide through the streets with ease.

A breakdown of the Nike Zoom VaporFy Elite and ZoomX technology

The technology would soon be put to work by the #Breaking2 crew.

Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia, Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya and Zersenay Tadese of Eritrea.

Breaking2 Crew
Breaking2 Crew

Although the record was not broken in Monza, Italy that day, Kipchoge ran just 26 seconds over the ideal mark coming in at 2:00:25.

Despite it not counting as a World Record, Kipchoge’s ceiling elevated into another dimension as he became the fastest marathoner in history.

Post-#Breaking2

Kipchoge and the Nike Zoom VaporFly Elite would put the lessons learned and the technology to use in an official  competition.

On September 24, 2017, Kipchoge ran the Berlin marathon and came in at 2:03:32 which was 35 seconds shy of the World Record at the time.

Eliud Kipchoge’s Nike Zoom VaporFly Elite for the 2017 Berlin Marathon

Nearly a year later, Kipchoge would officially become the fastest marathoner clocking in at 2:01:29 in Berlin, Germany.

Earlier in 2019, Kipchoge ran 2:02:37 in the London Marathon. The speculation started to grow.

Can a marathon be ran in under 2 hours? If Kipchoge can’t, could anyone? Did he miss his window?

INEOS 1:59

Kipchoge would try to make history once more.

On October 12, Kipchoge, along with the help of his pacers and a pace car, had their eyes on destiny.

Eliud Kipchoge in the Nike AlphaFly (ALEX HALADA/AFP via Getty Images)

Just minutes before the event started, Kipchoge was wearing a never-before-seen running silhouette from Nike.

Although an official release date and information are yet to be released, it appears that the race shoe is the Nike AlphaFly. According to Nike News, the silhouette is the future for what the Nike NEXT% is meant to look and perform.

Nike patent documents provide a detailed view of the newest running shoe. The silhouette features three carbon fiber plates stacked between Zoom Air Bags and ZoomX cushioning.

The four Zoom units are stacked on top of one another on opposite sides of the shoe. Two of which are visible while the other two are hidden within the midsole.

Nike AlphaFly via Ben Johnson

The evolution of running shoes goes back in time with the use of Zoom Air units in synchronization with modern technology using carbon fiber plates and the revolutionary ZoomX foam cushioning.

So how did Kipchoge and the Nike AlphaFly perform?

Eliud Kipchoge in the Nike AlphaFly

Much like the #Breaking2 campaign, Kipchoge was guided using a pace car that illustrated where the pace team needed to be at every step.

In unprecedented fashion, the pace team used an inverted V position to reduce drag while ensuring that Kipchoge was on pace. Two pacers would sit behind to box Kipchoge in.

As the teams changed between Kipchoge stayed consistent with his pace.

With a little over 3km left, smiles widened across faces and the crowd begun to roar as Kipchoge broke out in stride.

Eliud Kipchoge in the Nike AlphaFly

Kipchoge had done it becoming the first and only marathoner to run the 26.2 distance under 2 hours.

1:59:40.2

While we have yet to see the barrier be broken in an official marathon, Kipchoge and the Nike AlphaFly have redefined our understanding of fast and human achievement.

What crazy dream will they realize next?

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