Eliud Kipchoge’s 1:59 Challenge is a Sports Marketing Masterclass (and even has lasers)
The perfect blend of inspiration, personality, sports science, jeopardy and previously unsurpassed barriers. The INEOS 1:59 Challenge – Eliud Kipchoge’s attempt to break the magical two-hour barrier for the marathon – has captured the imagination of runners and sports fans all over the world.
Kipchoge has tried before as part of Nike’s Breaking2 project in 2017. Whilst ultimately unsuccessful, the project was arguably one of the greatest pieces of sports marketing in the 21st century. Nike took the world’s greatest marathoner in Kipchoge – unbeaten over the marathon since 2013, the 2016 Olympic champion, and now the world record holder from 2018 – and tried to do the impossible. Kipchoge came within 25 seconds in 2017, but what did come out of the project, were the Nike Vaporfly 4% – and more importantly the public perception of this super shoe. The fastest five marathons in history have all been run in the last 13 months, and all have been run in a version of the Nike Vaporflys. Adidas runner, Herpassa Negasa, painted three stripes over a pair of Vaporfly shoes so that he could run in them, but not lose his sponsorship.
The purported benefits of the shoes have been corroborated by various scientific studies, but it is arguable that the hoards of runners from mass participation to club and elites who are buying the shoes are doing so because of the hype, and because of the emotional investment from Kipchoge’s attempt, and subsequent world record. If you wanted to run a personal best, why would you wear anything else?
This time around, Nike is also supplying the phalanx of elite pacemakers – many of them world champions in their own right – whilst INEOS are providing an operation run with military precision to ensure that nothing is left to chance. The pace car has a complex laser array to project specific formations onto the road for the multiple teams of pacemakers to follow. The course and date window have been specifically chosen to provide flat, straight running in optimal weather conditions. The world’s media are being given access to a live stream, with the BBC and Eurosport recently joining more than 30 global broadcasters airing the event. It’s also being broadcast for free on YouTube. And this time round, the course is spectator friendly, set in the centre of one of Vienna’s major parks, the Prater.
This is one of the rare moments in elite sport which transcends road running or athletics. Our friends over at The Running Channel have put together a video explaining exactly what it takes to run under two hours for the marathon – putting the pace into perspective for ‘normal’ runners, detailing the logistics, planning, training, nutrition and mental approach that when put together give Kipchoge the chance to make history. Check it out and get inspired!
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