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What Mere Mortals Can Learn From the Breaking2 Attempt

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The Nike-sponsored attempt to break 2 hours in the marathon didn't work, but it did impart lessons the rest of us can learn from What Mere Mortals Can Learn From the Breaking2 Attempt www.runnerclick.com

I still have yet to break 2 hours in the half-marathon. Yet I came away from last weekend’s incredible Breaking2 marathon thinking that maybe Eliud Kipchoge and I have more in common than you’d think.

Kipchoge, of course, is the fleet-footed, determined marathoner who came closes to actually hitting the mark in Nike’s aggressive attempt to break 2 hours in the marathon.

The whole thing was kind of controversial. There were those who dubbed it a mere marketing stunt. There were those who argued even if one of the three carefully picked marathoners did break 2 hours, the record wouldn’t count and so why bother anyway? There were those who just seemed annoyed that they themselves didn’t get any free shoes out of it.

I will admit some of those points have validity. Still, I found the whole thing exhilarating, and that’s a tribute to the athletes themselves.

The mental toughness displayed by all three of them, but especially Kipchoge, was astonishing. Most of us can barely manage to follow a race plan under the most ideal conditions without millions watching JUST YOU on a live internet feed. The pressure and scrutiny these athletes endured was off the charts, yet they all showed they were capable of great things—Kipchoge most of all.

I also came away from the spectacle thinking that maybe these guys could teach us mere mortals something, too.

No, I’m not going to cover 26.2 in anywhere near the pace of Kipchoge. But the tremendous attention to detail that went into this race sparked a few ideas in my own head about how to approach both my training and racing.

Here are a few things we can take away from Breaking2.

You Should Petition Your Local 5Ks to Hand Out Water Bottles on Mopeds

It probably won’t make a difference in your final time, but boy did it look cool when those little mopeds approached the runners to hand off their fluids.

You Can Do Hard Things

So maybe you won’t run a sub-2:00 marathon. To me, the Breaking2 attempt was more about challenging all of us to find our own personal shoot-for-the-moon goal.

For me, that would be breaking 2 in the half. For you, it could be going under 20 in the 5K or completing a triathlon.

The thing is, Breaking2 shows you that even when you don’t succeed, you can still get something out of it. So am I suddenly looking for a fall half marathon that’s fast and flat? You bet I am.

Your Shoes Probably Don’t Matter as Much as You Think

Yes, those new shoes from Nike look sharp and were made with the best of technology. But really, shoes won’t make that big a difference in your race time.

Breaking2 controlled for just about every variable, and the shoes did not push the racers under their goal pace. You could certainly argue that the adrenalin, the pacing and the favorable track conditions made the bigger difference.

Maybe I’m just wary of shoes claiming superpowers. But I think this race proved you won’t get a discernable advantage from lacing up Nike’s marathon shoes or other shoes with similar build and sturdiness.

You Can Always Smile

I was utterly amazed to see Kipchoge smiling through the race—13 miles in, 30K in, approaching the end. While it may be a stretch to say he was having fun—running an average of 4:35.7 per mile hurts—he was not so zoned out that he couldn’t appreciate the moment.

Whether in running or in life, that’s a lesson that abandons us far too often. People have a tendency to focus on negatives – it’s just human nature. But even in our day-to-day existence, we should be able to find something to smile about.

For most of us, racing is not our job. And so, when we race, it’s important to remember we’re doing it voluntarily.

Smile. Enjoy it. If Kipchoge can, the rest of us can, too.

You Will Fail Sometimes         

Now, most people wouldn’t call a 2:00:25 marathon a failure—it’s really not under any definition of the word. But it was a bit of a disappointment since the entire point of the exercise was to go under 2.

However, if you read Kipchoge’s quotes from afterward and you hear the Nike scientists talk about it, no one sees this as a bummer. In fact, in reaching so high, Nike ensured that almost anything that came close to 2 would be a major accomplishment.

This reminds us that it’s okay to reach for the stars, and it’s okay if you don’t manage to grab them. Sometimes you will dream impossible dreams and achieve them. Sometimes you will not. Often it’s more about the journey than the goal anyway – and that’s a great reminder to stay focused throughout your training.

You Don’t Have to Drink Gatorade

OK, this seems like a minor realization, but for those of us who aren’t huge Gatorade fans and continue to search for that magical energy gel/sports drink that can get the job done just as well, Kipchoge offered another revelation.

He drank the Drink Mix 320, produced by Maurten, which you better believe was social media-ing the heck out of that fact. Talk about a great advertising opportunity … but I digress.

I’m intrigued by the notion of another sports drink that can be just as effective as Gatorade and with apparently even more carbs. I’m not saying this is going to necessarily turn you into a sub-2 marathoner. But I am saying that it’s always fun to play with convention.

Once again, this can be true in life as well as running. Our lives are richer when we go against the grain occasionally.

You Have to Believe in Something

I love that Kipchoge, Lelisa Desisa and Zersensay Tadese believed they could do the impossible. What amazing faith. Some days I am not even sure I can make it till 5 p.m. without a sugary drink laced with caffeine. This made me want to find something running-related I can believe in.

And so if you need me, I’m heading back to researching that flat, fast half.