Kenya's Olympic and two-time London marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge will skip the world championships this year in a bid to break the mythical two-hour barrier for the long-distance event.
The 32-year-old Kenyan is one of three top runners selected by American sportswear giant Nike to make the marathon record attempt later this year. Kipchoge believes this may happen as early as May, offering no further details on where or how the race would be held.
"I am proud to be part and parcel of this Nike Breaking2 project ... I am going to break the two-hour mark in May," Kipchoge told AFP in Eldoret, the high-altitude city in western Kenya used as a training centre for many long-distance runners.
"Many people have expressed doubts whether it would be logical to achieve this sooner than later, but I believe that it is all possible if we train hard and put all our focus on it."
In 1908, Irishman Johnny Hayes won the first marathon set at the modern distance of 42.195 kilometres (26.219 miles) in a time of 2:55:18.
In the 109 years since, the record has crumbled to 2:02:57, run by Kenyan Denis Kimetto in 2014.
Kipchoge, a former world 5,000m champion, ran the world's third fastest marathon time of 2:03.05 when he successfully defended his London marathon title last April.
But the two-hour barrier has never been broken and has become the next big challenge for the event's elite racers.
- 'Audacious' bid -
Respected track and field magazine Runners World has predicted that, based on data analysis, the barrier would only be broken in 2075, and called Nike's bid "audacious".
Nike is taking everything that is known about nutrition, training and biomechanics, and some of the world's best runners -- all from East Africa -- in order to break the record.
However the brand has only been able to choose runners it sponsors, thus excluding current world record holder Kimetto who is sponsored by Adidas.
Kipchoge says he plans to forgo an attempt for a third successive London marathon title in April, as well as the IAAF world championships in the British capital in August, in order to concentrate on the sub-two hour attack.
The two other Nike-sponsored runners earmarked in the attempt are Ethiopia's former Boston marathon winner Lelisa Desisa and veteran Eritrean distance runner Zersenay Tadese.
Their goal is to run 1:59.59 or faster, meaning a startling pace of 4min 34sec per mile.
"Based on what is presently known, whoever breaks the 2hr barrier will have a favourable genetic profile (yet to be determined), an outstanding running economy and small body size along with chronic exposure to high altitude and significant physical activity early in life," Nike wrote on its website dedicated to the challenge.
AFP - OmRiyadat