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Sorry to rain on Eliud Kipchoge’s parade, but his marathon feat is tainted by technology

Event organizers INEOS – a chemicals giant owned by British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe – gushed on their Twitter feed that Kipchoge’s achievement ranked among milestones such as Roger Bannister running the four-minute mile in 1954, Neil Armstrong setting foot on the moon in 1969, and Usain Bolt smashing the 100m world record in 2009.

Eliud Kipchoge is a marathon legend but his achievement in smashing the two-hour mark must be ranked as a technological achievement as much as a physical one.

As the 34-year-old Kenyan blazed towards the finish line in Vienna on Saturday, arms outstretched, beating his chest, it was hard not to be swept along at the same blistering pace with him.

Here was man obliterating a barrier that no other human had ever broken; Kipchoge chewed up the 26.2-mile (42.2km) course in the Austrian capital in 1 hour 59 minutes and 40 seconds. He looked as if he barely broke a sweat.

Kipchoge agonizingly fell 25 seconds short in attempting to break the two-hour barrier at the Monza racetrack in Italy two years ago, but this time he and the organizers left absolutely nothing to chance.

Indeed, the extent of planning that went into the event on Saturday was staggering in its painstaking detail:

– a laser-guided route to maintain the perfect pace around a spectator-lined course chosen in Vienna’s Prater Park for its favorable gradients;

– a troop of 41 world-class pacesetters, rotating in groups and in the perfect wind-reducing formation;

– a start time carefully chosen and in conditions deemed most favorable by meteorological experts;

– energy gels handed to Kipchoge from a bike to avoid any need to break stride;

– a specially-designed pair of Nike shoes believed to be able to provide a 4-5 percent improvement for runners.

Admittedly that’s not quite approaching the level of a lunar expedition, but it did involve millions of dollars and was unlike anything seen before for an athletics event – even in the world of modern sport, where science and technology seem to play an ever-increasing role.

Some of these factors meant, of course, that Kipchoge’s time in Vienna was not classed as a world record. Instead, the mark he set at the Berlin marathon last year of 2:01:39 is still the official benchmark.

To put Saturday’s achievement in perspective, the next time you are in a gym, crank the running machine up to 21kph and see how long you can stick the pace. That’s how fast Kipchoge ran on average for the whole course in Vienna.

But we can’t escape the fact that the technology was there, the marginal gains accumulated so much that it taints the achievement.

Perhaps that is no more so than the Nike footwear that Kipchoge was wearing. His bespoke version of Nike’s ZoomX Vaporfly contain a thick foam sole with a curved carbon-fiber plate inside, which research says improves metabolic efficiency by around 4-5 percent. The five fastest marathons in history have been run by athletes wearing versions of the shoe, and while they aren’t banned, they are clearly not your average footwear.

Read the full article: RT