Eliud Kipchoge is the Essence of Progress
On May 6, 2017 in Monza, Italy, Eliud Kipchoge took part in Breaking2, Nike’s quest to break the two-hour marathon barrier. His final time, 2:00:25, is the fastest 26.2 miles that a human being is known to have covered. It signaled to the world — and to the runner too — the value of chasing audacious goals, not only for personal reasons, but in the spirit of advancing the sport as a whole.
While Breaking2 introduced Kipchoge to a wider audience than his prior exploits may have, the Kenyan distance champion and marathon world record holder has been with Nike since the early 2000s. At that time, he was a junior cross-country runner on the precipice of claiming his first world title (the 5000m in Lausanne in 2003) and en route to a career that would earn him an undisputed title: the greatest marathoner ever.
Kipchoge won his first 26.2 in 2013. He went on to win 10 of his next 11 competitive races, creating the distance’s most formidable record in the process. Kipchoge’s next attempt will again bring him one-on-one with the clock — the itch to break the illusive two-hour mark remaining strong.
Kipchoge has described himself as the “person who loves change, technology and innovation.” He is, given all his dedication to evolution in the sport, the essence of progress.
While the pursuit of personal bests fuels his training, Kipchoge has also become an important voice in fueling the future of running’s technical engineering. For the past five years, Kipchoge has offered astute feedback on the full gamut of Nike’s running footwear — from Free to Epic React and Pegasus to Vomero. Most important, he has been a constant partner in Nike’s effort to redefine the marathon shoe.
Kipchoge first tested what was to become the Nike Zoom Vaporfly Elite in January 2016. He was instantly entranced by the radical tooling and the road feel. A few months later, Kipchoge wore the shoe, still an under-the-radar prototype, in London and again that year in Rio. Shortly after his gold-medal performance in Brazil, he addressed Nike designers with a few sharp questions: “What’s running in your mind after this shoe? Do you have plans for another version with more advanced benefits?”
Since then, he’s been leading each iterative advance of Nike’s NEXT% range.
Kipchoge first visited the Nike Sports Research Lab (NSRL) in 2016 as part of the journey toward Breaking2. The experience solidified friendships — Kipchoge had been regularly emailing Nike contacts for marathon footwear advice since 2013 — and set in motion a new stage in his competitive career.
The symbiosis between Kipchoge and the NSRL manifested itself in his brilliant performance in Monza, then progressed to breaking the marathon world record in Berlin in 2018. It has also stoked Kipchoge’s insatiable appetite for pushing the limits of potential — illustrated in how he cares for his body, prepares for his races and shifts right back into his next challenge. In turn, Kipchoge’s verve spurs the NSRL to continue to pursue science-led innovations that push the limits of performance running.
Kipchoge will attempt to break the two-hour barrier on October 12 wearing a future edition of Nike’s Next% marathon shoe. No matter the outcome, what’s clear is that this champion’s singular experience will prompt more feedback, more questions and, ultimately, more advance in the sport as a whole.
Update: Kipchoge broke the two-hour barrier, running 1:59:40.