Nike knew Eliud Kipchoge would break the 2 hour marathon BEFORE he ran!
My friend Matt Gooch, has made what I consider to be the most lucid and interesting commentary on Eliud Kipchoge's INEOS1:59 Challenge success.
The attention to detail by Nike in relation to every nuance of the race was nothing short of mindblowing!
And where it is taking us, is unchartered water, and not a littltle scary!
Here are Matt's very well informed thoughts.
Be sure to comment below, and please feel free to share!
To get some understanding of the lengths Nike went to to prepare Kipchoge for the attempt, take a look at this paper. It literally blew my mind!
Considering the significant amount of discussion over the last several days about this project and the implications… I thought you might find the following insights interesting.
Personally, I think that the focus on the shoe has been the easy and oversimplified explanation of what we have seen with the two breaking 2 attempts.
This project perfectly embodies what is so infuriatingly frustrating about NIKE and also what makes them amazing at the same time.
Both events were completely over the top in their coverage of not only the event but its significance to other moments in time. This type of egregious exaggeration certainly draws (and drew) the ire of running insiders and afficiandos
– but in my view the events were never intended for the running community – but rather for the general population – pop culture – scrolling news updates and 30 second segments on the nightly news to be able to highlight and effectively impress on the general public how great Nike is at making shoes.
And even though the general public will never have a need or desire to wear or even see the Vaporfly 4%, Next % and the Alphafly… they will see Nike as a performance brand and look for the downline options that fit their budget or level of commitment/interest.
But the even more frustrating thing is that Nike did make a whole series of really great, interesting, well researched and incredibly unique shoes that provide a unique response to the cyclical and somewhat predictable load that running provides (especially at the elite level)… but it’s not just the shoes… and it’s certainly not just the shoes during the run itself that matter.
The shoes were used extensively in the training program for a variety of purposes, not the least of which was potentially reducing muscle damage over time (based on what was presented at The Footwear Biomechanics Symposium).
What we have seen is a complete alteration of the what a fully integrated and connected training program is capable of in the new data age – at both the micro and macro levels.
The amount of time, resource and the scale of the depth of data that they have used to alter everything from Kipchoge’s training, nutrition, the equipment he uses (shoes, wearables, etc.) and the analysis of race courses is monumental –
and to only acknowledge the role the shoe(s) have played in the actual run is (in my mind) to refuse to acknowledge the rest of the iceberg resting underneath the water
This type of investment in both internal and external research happened at a scale that maybe only Nike could execute.
Kipchoge didn’t smash 2hrs because he ran in the Alphafly prototype… he smashed two because of a systematic shift in the manner in which the best marathoner of his generation trained and raced.
This project touched everything – they said as much in the lead up to the original breaking 2 project.
It was stated that they selected the original three members of the breaking 2 not only based on their previous race performances, but also because they were willing to fully participate in the project.
This may be why would see other big names in the Nike stable like Bekele left out of the program.
We heard them talk about a variety of different aspects performance (both directly footwear related and non) that were investigated at the Footwear Biomechanics Symposium.
In my view, this project has always been about learning to gather and wield data… in ways no one had ever been able to do… to fine tune an athlete into the best version of themselves.
This project wouldn’t have worked – and Kipchoge might not have broken 2 hours – if he and his team didn’t buy into all the data, insight and potential race/training strategy it provided.
And the fact that other runners have filed a grievance about the shoe… just the shoe… shows how little is understood even in the world of professional athletes about how much more there is to everything that has happened beyond the shoe(s) to get to this point.
The whole picture is so much bigger than the shoes and the race.
It was also mentioned this summer at the FBS that their model was within 10 seconds of predicting Kipchoge’s WR in Berlin.
This tells me they knew he was going to break 2hrs well before he toed the line in Vienna, otherwise he never would have started.
It was a foregone conclusion that verified their ability to gather the data and turn it into what may be the most comprehensive performance prediction model that has ever existed –
and I wouldn’t be shocked it they don’t monetize a version of it in the future through something like their Nike+ community.
No matter if the shoe(s) are banned or limited by the IAAF or not… Nike has already won this battle.
Now they have the predictive model… and who knows how they can evolve it in the future.
Matt Gooch, MS, C.Ped
Director of Product and Innovation
Superfeet Worldwide Inc.
Director of Bartold Clinical