A new organization called the Sub2hr Project launched on Thursday with the goal of training runners to complete a marathon in under two hours.
Invoking Roger Bannister breaking the four-minute mile barrier—an achievement that many once believed impossible—Sub2hr Project staffers argue on their website that their moonshot-style project, with a stated deadline of 2019, will foster a more methodical, evidence-based approach to how elite athletes can become more elite.
Leading the project is Yannis Pitsiladis, a professor of sport and exercise science at the University of Brighton who has been studying training methods of runners in East Africa. Pitsiladis, who holds adjunct seats at Moi University in Kenya and Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia, told Outside that he believes part of the reason the sub-two-hour marathon has eluded even the world’s most talented runners is because they’ve been deprived of the coaching methods they deserve.
“Sports science is a dying field,” he said. “What do today’s coaches do? They do what was done to them as athletes: a bit of art, a bit of nonsense. No one knows what they’re doing.”
In addition to academics in the UK and the United States who have signed on, legendary marathoner Haile Gebrselassie is an ambassador for the Sub2hr Project. A four-time Berlin Marathon winner, Gebrselassie held the men’s world record from 2007 to 2011, once breaking his own 2:04:26 record with a time of 2:03:59. The current men’s world record, set by Dennis Kimetto of Kenya in September 2014, is 2:02:57.
Much of the athlete recruiting is still to come.
“The first objective in the first year is to secure the money and to gather the team,” Pitsiladis said. “Achieving the sub-two is almost an irrelevance. What I really want is to sensitize people around the world who have something to offer.”