by Alex Poletti
As technology advances and athletes are given every opportunity to improve their craft, record keepers and sports fundamentalists wonder if new achievements are legitimate, given the hand that new tech has played. This debate was reinvigorated this week after Kenyan runner Eliud Kipchoge ran the first marathon under two hours, but did so with Wheelies, putting his record in jeopardy.
“There’s no doubt that what Kipchoge was able to do is an athletic feat,” record keeper Charlie Endo says, “but it just can’t count as a real world record when he spent a quarter of the time letting the wheels built into the heels of his shoes do most of the work.”
Kipchoge has already cemented his legacy as the best runner in the world, having previously completed marathons with times of 2:01:39 and 2:02:37. While vying to break two hours, Kipchoge wasn’t alone with his athletic prowess; instead, he was joined by a car and more than 30 Olympic-level runners acting as pacesetters and his special, Nike-designed Wheelies.
“Damn what the world record says,” sports analyst Stephen A. Smith says screams to a camera, “he ran 26.2 miles in less than two hours. It doesn’t matter if there were people in front of him, he still did it. Does it matter if he got to catch his breath while the wheels were doing the work? Of course not.”
The marathon is not the only athletic event fueling this debate, as several competitive sports struggle with the same issues. Shoes get better for basketball players. Clubs are designed to hit the ball further for golfers. Baseballs are being juiced by the administration while the CIA puts LSD into the drinking water. It’s all a part of modern sports.
Yet it seems that despite the ever-growing trend towards progress, many fans and analysts hold the purity of their sport above all else. Such is the case with the marathon.
“At the end of the day, this was just to see if it was possible to run a marathon in under two hours,” Kipchoge explains. “I don’t want it to count as a record. But don’t be surprised if you see other runners beat my time. Does it matter if I used Wheelies? For now, yes. But what about in 20 years, or in 100 when due to Nuclear exposure we are born with wheels on the bottom of our feet? It’s difficult to say.”