Something quite remarkable happened at the weekend, a Kenyan runner nearly broke 2 hours to run a full marathon. That’s taking 4 minutes and 35 seconds to run one mile. Mile after mile. For 26 miles. It was only in 1954 that the 4 minute mile barrier was broken, and that was just for one single mile, not 26+ miles. That’s running at about 15 miles per hour, or about the same as running the 100 metres in 17 seconds, x422 times!
This amazing athletic feat saw Eliud Kipchoge clock 2 hours and 25 seconds for this marathon attempt. For much of the time he was on pace to attain the 2 hour target, but the later laps saw the strain take its toll. While missing the target, Eliud did break the current world record for the marathon, which is held by a fellow Kenyan, Dennis Kimetto, of 2 hours 2 minutes and 57 seconds, set at the Berlin Marathon back in 2014. The other runners, the Eritrean Zersenay Tadese, who is the current world-record holder for the half-marathon, and Lelisa Desisa, from Ethiopia, two-times winner of the Boston marathon, also both finished, in the finest tradition of athletes, with a true epic effort to continue, despite knowing they were well outside the record attempt, the older Tadese at 2:06 and younger Desira at 2.14.
The slightly controversial part was that this attempt was run by Nike, with its Breaking2 programme. For this they ran early morning with repeated laps of the Monza racing circuit. The three runners had a phalanx of other elite runners as their vanguard, sheltering them as well as acting as pacemakers, as well as car beaming a green line to show the target pace, and were re-fuelled by moped riders. Because of these factors this record attempt was not recognised for any official record by the sporting authorities. Nike was also promoting its restricted (up to now) new Zoom Vaporfly Elite shoes, which use a special carbon-fibre plate in the soles to make runners 4% more efficient than Nike’s previous fastest marathon shoe, boosting their running economy.
But regardless of the corporate PR spin the actual running feat is truly impressive. So maybe it was outside 2 hours, but you know what, they did just do it.
Parkour has just been recognised as a sport by the UK sports council. For the development of this sport, also known as freerunning, this is good news as it now allows it to attract government grants and National Lottery funding.
Often perceived as being a high-risk activity in an urban environment, it was interesting listening to Sébastien Foucan in a recent radio interview. He’s a spokesperson for the sport but probably more recognised as the stunt man who did the audacious roof top chase in the James Bond film “Casino Royale”. He eloquently talked about it not being restricted to a “built environment” (i.e. urban) but about being a non-competitive discipline in public spaces. It was revealing and inspiring to hear him describe the need to respect the environment and that you could do the sport while “staying on the ground”. In response to the view that it wasn’t a sport, Sébastien stated they could measure and assess participants, as there were defined techniques and levels of progression. Adding that it was similar to gymnastics, you needed to respect the levels and not take risks by attempting something well outside your progression. I’m making him sound a bit dull, on radio he was enthusiastic and positive.
Why bother? I think it might be the simple attraction of being a big kid again, enjoying the freedom of running around outside, and the simple joys that came from doing things just because you could, like climbing trees and the fun of jumping off low walls and park benches, now being carried through to a bigger playground. Here’s an inspiring free running story.
There could be a downside, the trouble with being a recognised activity is that it can then become too elitist and competitive. While not a recognised “sport”, Urban Exploration, or Urbex seems to have splintered into various factions, which does seem to be more prone to macho posturing, especially for social media. Mind you both Parkour and Urbex would look pretty spectacular as an Olympic Sport and far more an intrinsic challenge then many of the soi-disant Olympic Sports!
Strava. Like marmite you either love it or hate it.
Strava is an addictive app that enables you to track journeys, shows your route, provides time/distance data and compare with others. You can view other rides, runs and other stuff. I have even used it for canoeing trips, which I had to log as workouts as there isn’t actually a canoe option. I have taken to logging runs on it as it provides so much more data than the usual stopwatch, and there is something childishly pleasing about seeing your run appear on screen with a map and times.
I’m sure it can be used by real athletes to get credible coaching data but for now it’s a case of going for a run or cycle and setting the GPS to ready, to make sure that when the questions is “is it on strava” the answer is yes. It is. Been there, done that, and recorded it all on strava!
Ideas like let’s run from the top to the very bottom of New Zealand. Oh and try and do it in record breaking time…..
It’s one of those ideas that probably starts with a kid and a map of the world.
But to actually do it – well that’s something else. Jez Braggs is running from the very top to the very bottom of New Zealand. Really just on that traditional principle of because it is there. But he is also going to try and do it in the fastest time – some 50 days of running in diverse terrain of over 1,800 miles.
As well as the exhilarating run along the Te Araroa (The long Pathway) he will also be taking a canoe interlude with an 80-mile canoe trip down the Whanganui river, halfway down the North island, and a paddle across the demanding 17-mile Cook Strait expedition. It helps that Jez is one of those ultra-runners so should be fit and experienced enough to actually be able to do it. As he says “in training for the big trail races, I noticed that the parts where I had the most fun was when I was on long runs in remote places; I really enjoyed losing myself in the runs where the journey was more the point than the destination”
The greatest thing about such expeditions is just the sheer boy-hood (you can replace that with girl-hood if you prefer) adventure of it. It’s just one of those things you wish you could do yourself. Next best thing is to read Jez’s adventures about it. Enjoy!
Every so often there’s a debate about whether running, from jogging for the bus, to ultra-marathons onwards, are good or bad for your health. there is no doubt that running can be hazardous while in central park, new york there’s disputes about who should be using the dirt path undulating around the Central Park reservoir known as the “runners’ track”, which now even has one-way signs posted to keep order.
In no doubt though is that running shoes have improved. Back in the days when I moved from doing football training to running there was a choice of plimsolls, football trainers (adidias) or Dunlop green flash. Soon came along trendy, fashionable, garish and expensive hi-tecs, and a few more years after that the start of proper running shoes from Nike and everyone else. I’ve since run in great shoes from new balance, brooks, saucony and asics; all a great improvement on the old-fashioned sports shoes. So things do improve with age.