Amazing. Running's Last Great Barrier Falls

Discussion in 'Sports' started by vanzandt, Oct 12, 2019 at 8:11 PM.

  1. vanzandt

    vanzandt

    Eliud Kipchoge Smashes Running’s ‘Last Great Barrier’ With Sub-2-Hour Marathon
    Kenyan runner completes race in 1 hour, 59 minutes and 40 seconds
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    Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge crossed the finish line in Vienna after running a 26.2 marathon in 1 hour, 59 minutes and 40 seconds. Photo: alex halada/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
    By
    Joshua Robinson
    Updated Oct. 12, 2019 6:32 am ET

    VIENNA—Kenyan marathoner Eliud Kipchoge became the first human to run a marathon in under two hours, covering the 26.2-mile distance in a once inconceivable 1 hour, 59 minutes and 40 seconds during a specially-tailored event in Vienna on Saturday.

    The race against the clock, backed by the British petrochemicals billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, unfolded on a 9.6-kilometer (6-mile) circuit of perfectly flat, tree-lined road, handpicked for this attempt.

    Although it was the quickest marathon ever recorded, the effort won’t count as a world record because it didn’t come in a race setting and he relied on rotating pacemakers.

    But for all the assistance he received over seven months of preparation and nearly two hours of running, 34-year-old Kipchoge waved off the pacemakers with some 500 yards to go. It was clear to him then that he wouldn’t simply break the two-hour barrier but shatter it. His face creased into a grin and he finished solo, flashing thumbs-up at the fans, and pointing at the giant clock above the finish line.

    Kipchoge jumped into the arms of his wife, who had never seen him run a marathon in person, and was then immediately hoisted onto the shoulders of his team, waving the Kenyan flag.

    “I’m expecting more athletes to run under two hours after today,” said Kipchoge, the winner of eight major marathons and three Olympic medals.

    A sub-two-hour marathon wasn’t even considered possible until within the last two decades. As recently as 2002, the world record was still outside 2:05. Which is why, perhaps, no target in running had garnered this much hype since Roger Bannister broke through the 4-minute mile in 1954.

    “It’s the last great barrier in athletics after the 4-minute mile and the 10-second 100 meters,” said Ratcliffe before the 8:15 a.m. start.

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    “I’m expecting more athletes to run under two hours after today,” Kipchoge said. Photo: leonhard foeger/Reuters
    Compared with Saturday’s production, however, Bannister’s dash around an Oxford track 65 years ago seemed downright prehistoric.

    With a budget estimated in the millions, the 1:59 Challenge had all the trappings of major modern sporting event, which Ratcliffe’s Ineos company knows a thing or two about. He also owns a dominant pro cycling team, the British America’s Cup outfit, and the OGC Nice soccer club in France. (Ratcliffe has been accused of trying to burnish Ineos’s environmentally unfriendly image through sports, but he insists these are just passion projects.)

    On Saturday, his sponsor banners lined the course. Techno music blared from loudspeakers in the early Vienna morning and camera crews captured the action for a YouTube live stream with an audience of more than 450,000.

    This was Kipchoge’s second attempt at going below the two-hour mark. In 2017, he had been one of the three runners in the Nike -backed Breaking2 event, a stunt coordinated at the Monza motor-racing circuit in Italy. On that occasion, Kipchoge ran 2:00:25, nearly three full minutes faster than his personal best at the time. Since then, he has set the official world record with a 2:01:39 clocked last year in Berlin.

    “The biggest difference is the mind-set,” Kipchoge’s manager Valentijn Trouw said before Saturday’s race. “In Monza, his personal best was still 2:03:05 so he needed to prepare his mind to go three minutes faster than he had ever done before.”

    This time, with Kipchoge needing to cut just 26 extra seconds, organizers were eager to make the run feel less like a “science experiment,” as Team Ineos chief executive Fran Millar put it, and more like a big city marathon. The idea was to have Kipchoge run on city streets, with as many noisy fans as possible along the barriers.

    Everything else about the event was stage-managed in forensic detail. Ineos leaned on experts from its sailing team for weather forecasts and consulting coaches from its cycling team for aerodynamic advice. Cleaners swept stray leaves off the course all morning. And through the run, Kipchoge’s pace car even projected a green laser display on the road showing the target pace and his pacemakers’ line. All he had to do was follow it.

    “I was really calm and trying to go with the pace, not to be crazy, not to be slow,” Kipchoge said.

    Nothing about the event was more carefully engineered than Kipchoge’s sneakers, a pair of white Nike Vaporflys, perhaps the most discussed footwear in sports. Widely believed to improve performance—to the point where there have been questions over their legality—the sneakers with carbon-fiber plates in the sole have featured in the five quickest official marathons in history. All five took place in the past 13 months.

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    “I think the hardest time of my life was between 5 o’clock and 8:15,” said Kipchoge. Photo: Jed Leicester/Associated Press
    Kipchoge’s pacemakers also wore them, in hot pink, as they rotated in and out, seven at a time, to reduce drag and keep up the hellish 4:34-mile (or 2:50-kilometer) rhythm. With metronomic regularity, they checked off every kilometer of the race between 2:48 and 2:52.

    The team of 41 handpicked helpers, including five alternates, brought together major marathon winners and Olympic champions, like the 2016 gold medalist in the 1,500 meters Matt Centrowitz. The challenge for them wasn’t so much in maintaining a high pace for their 5-kilometer stints—Centrowitz called it a “glorified workout”—but rather sticking to the inverted-V formation and nailing the changeovers.

    For Kipchoge, the toughest part came before he took off at anywhere near his frenetic pace. Awake at 4:50 a.m., he went through his morning routine and a bowl of oatmeal, finally feeling the pressure of everything: from Ratcliffe’s massive investment to a Friday phone call from the president of Kenya.

    “I think the hardest time of my life was between 5 o’clock and 8:15,” he said.

    Not that Kipchoge ever showed it. He is a competitor of preternatural calm. Softly-spoken, unflappable in his stride, Kipchoge described his task in the philosophical tones of a Zen master.

    Asked before the race which section might prove most important, he said, “All kilometers are really critical.”

    Referring to the recent ban of a Nike-backed coach for doping offenses, Kipchoge said, “In a garden, there are flowers and there are weeds. In Vienna we are talking about the flowers.”

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    And finally, asked a possible future attempt on the world record in race conditions, he offered, “Above all, I am from Kenya, where you are taught not to chase two rabbits or one of them will escape.”

    The few times Kipchoge allowed himself to get carried away were when he compared the achievement with walking on the moon. In fact, the only lunar thing about this was Kipchoge’s running style.

    On Saturday, he appeared more loosely bound by gravity than most.
     
    Nobert likes this.
  2. speedo

    speedo

    As a long time distance runner, this boggles my mind.
     
  3. Nobert

    Nobert

    Reminds me of Roger Bannister and 1 mile in 4 mins. Media said it was impossible.

    Man beated it ; then suddenly, the amount of people who did it too, - skyrocketed.

    Change in humans perspective, by a single individual.
     
    speedo likes this.
  4. vanzandt

    vanzandt

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    Nike’s Vaporfly 4% Shoes Really Did Boost the Running Economy of Everyone Tested, Says Study


    The just-published article suggests that a combination of cushioning and energy return explains potential performance breakthroughs.

    By amby burfoot
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    Chris Lawrence

    We’ve known for some time that elite runners can race really fast in the new Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4% shoes. Eliud Kipchoge won last year’s Olympic Marathon and ran that incredible 2:00:25 last May in the shoes. Little more than a week ago, Shalane Flanagan and Geoffrey Kamworor wore them while winning the New York City Marathon.

    But what about non-elites? Would the shoes offer any benefit to them?

    A new report just published by the journal Sports Medicine indicates the answer is a qualified yes. In fact, every runner tested at the University of Colorado, Boulder’s “Locomotion Lab”—18 out of 18—had better running economy in the Vaporflys than when they ran in two other racing shoe models (Nike Zoom Streak 6 and Adidas Adios Boost 2). This represents a rare 100 percent success rate in the world of human-effects research. The subjects included eight rearfoot strikers, and 10 midfoot/forefoot strikers, with the heel runners gaining a somewhat greater advantage.

    Why the Findings Matter

    Running economy is a measure of the amount of work a runner must do at a given speed. It is generally measured in distance runners at a pace at or just above what well-trained marathoners can maintain for 26.2 miles. If a runner’s economy improves, that implies that he or she can go faster and/or longer without building excessive fatigue. So while this study didn’t show that runners were faster in the Vaporflys, it suggests they would be in a real-world setting, because their energy cost of running at a given pace would be lower.

    “We were surprised by the magnitude of the effect, and that we saw savings in every single subject at all three running speeds,” lead author Wouter Hoogkamer said. (The runners ran at three different paces: 6:53/mile, 6:02/mile, and 5:21/ mile.) “Typically, when we test a new shoe, we see that some runners save energy, but for others, the shoe doesn’t fit their personal biomechanics, so they have an increased energy cost in the new shoe. I’ve never seen such a robust finding as we had with the Vaporfly shoes.”

    While some runners’ running economy improved by as little as 1.59 percent and others by as much as 6.26 percent, the averages clustered tightly around 4 percent. This allowed Hoogkamer to estimate that a runner in the Vaporfly shoes might reduce the current marathon world record of 2:02:57 to 1:58:54. Of course, there are many potential differences between treadmill running and true marathon efforts.

    To join the study, all runners had to complete multiple 5-minute repeats as fast as 5:21/mile without edging over their lactate threshold. In the report's funniest, most understated line, the authors reported, "It was challenging to recruit 18 runners who could sustain 18 km/hour below lactate threshold and also fit the available size M10 prototypes.”

    What Explains the Study Results?

    Previously, it was thought that shoes of light weight—a sine qua non for fast running—could not be manipulated enough to produce more than a 1 or 2 percent improvement. The Vaporflys use a new lightweight foam (ZoomX, in Nike-speak) that is both soft (cushiony) and bouncy (with high energy return.) The technical terms are "compliant" and "resilient." The shoes also include a stiff carbon-fiber plate in the midsole to enhance ankle and foot-toe efficiency.

    The foam is so light that it allowed Nike to construct an unusually thick midsole for a racing shoe. That’s why, on first sight, almost everyone mistakes the Vaporfly for a training shoe. The shoes have a heel height of 31 millimeters, compared to 23 millimeters for the Adidas Boost and Nike Air shoes used in the study.

    In their paper, the researchers try to tease out the various factors leading to the substantial energy savings. The Vaporfly wins big on cushioning: It “deforms” twice as much as the other two shoes. That is, its pillowy cushioning allows the foot to sink downward twice as far as the other two midsoles. Usually, such highly cushioned shoes don’t have good energy return. The two properties have often been seen as opposites in shoe construction, and shoe companies are forever adjusting them to achieve optimal results. With newer foams, the obstacles are apparently diminishing. As the researchers note, “Compliance and resilience are not mutually exclusive.”


    Boulder-based runner Andy Wacker tests the Nike Zoom Vaporfly while being monitored by graduate student and 2012 Olympic steeplechaser Shalaya Kipp in the Locomotion Lab at the University of Colorado Boulder.
    Casey A. Cass
    The new Nike foam also tested best for energy return. It returned 87 percent of the stored energy, compared to 75.9 percent for the Adidas model and 65.5 percent for the other Nike shoe. The researchers believe that the combination of great cushioning and energy-return explains 80 percent of the Vaporfly’s advantage.

    But how does the greater running economy present itself? Surely, there must be a clear and simple biomechanical change that can be observed. Not so far. In the Vaporflys, the runners ran with slightly longer strides (lower stride frequency), slightly more contact time, and slightly greater peak vertical force. None of these changes were large enough to explain a 4 percent improvement in running economy. For example, subjects’ stride rates barely changed. While running at 5:21 per mile pace, they averaged a stride rate of 181 in the Vaporflys, 182 in the Adidas shoes, and 183 in the Nike Air shoes.

    What’s Next in Shoe (and Performance) Breakthroughs?

    Study author Rodger Kram and others have previously noted that softer midsoles (or treadmill surfaces) produce energy savings by allowing the knee to bend less. With less knee bending, the big quadriceps muscles are contracted less, and therefore less oxygen is consumed. However, the new study did not measure knee flex, so the researchers can’t identify that as a crucial factor. “We are currently performing follow-up experiments to get more insights into the exact biomechanical mechanisms at play,” Kram said.

    Midpack marathoners will wonder if the Vaporflys would work for them at, say, 4-hour marathon pace and slower. Hoogkamer believes so. “We don’t have any actual data relating to 9:10 [per mile] pace,” he said, “but we noted a relatively consistent 4 percent savings at the three paces we tested. So it seems we could extrapolate this to the 9:10 pace. Those runners should see an improvement of 8.4 to 8.9 minutes [in a marathon].”

    When Dennis Kimetto ran the current marathon world record in 2014, he wore a pair of Adidas Boost shoes. To help a runner get to 1:59:59, a shoe would have to offer a 2.5 percent performance enhancement. Could the Vaporflys manage that?

    Theoretically, yes, though the performance edge isn’t a full 4 percent. That’s due largely to the air resistance of outdoors running versus a treadmill. Also, a 1:59:59 marathon would require a pace of 4:35 per mile—faster than any pace measured in the Colorado lab.

    RELATED: A Closer Look at Nike’s Newest Super Shoe

    When Hoogkamer made the necessary adjustments, he pegged the actual performance-improvement level at 3.4 percent. Voila, a 2:02:57 becomes a 1:58:54.

    While the new Nike Vaporflys appear to represent a major leap forward in performance running shoes, they aren’t the last stop. Future shoes will bring greater enhancements. But it won’t be easy. “The options for improvement are diminishing,” Kram said. “Cushioned shoes can’t get much lighter than the 7 ounces of the Vaporfly shoe, and it is already delivering 87 percent energy return, so that figure can’t go much higher.”

    The Colorado report was sponsored by Nike, which will cause some to cast a skeptical eye on the results. Kram’s response: “Nike came to us because we could design a bulletproof study, and I have lots of expertise and recognized integrity in the field. The money didn’t go to me. It paid my post-doc and grad students, and we compensated the subjects for their time. There is no way I would risk my scientific reputation built over 34 years to fabricate results. This was just a totally cool project. I love this stuff.”

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    speedo likes this.