Eliud Kipchoge is not only the fastest marathon runner in the world, he now has his own Nike shoe: a special colorway of the world record-breaking, almost-banned Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next%. The shoe features the Kenyan colors on the heel, as well as a pair of mismatched Swooshes.
A disappointing, injury-related eighth-place finish at the recent London Marathon hasn’t dampened Kipchoge’s spirits as he sits down to talk to Highsnobiety. “Nike is a running company. Kenya is a running country. And I am a running person. That is the best detail,” Kipchoge says, beaming while he explains his favorite thing about the new “Kenya” Alphafly Next%.
Running has experienced a huge boom over the past year, which has been accelerated by self-isolation and restrictions stemming from Covid-19. Nike’s running app, NRC, has seen its users double year-on-year in EMEA (from May 2019 to May 2020); anyone that ventured out into a park during the past eight months will likely say that they saw a steep increase in the number of joggers out and about.
“I’m a happy man to see so many people get outdoors and running outside,” Kipchoge smiles. “Running is not actually that expensive. All you need is your shoes and to go outside.”
That, of course, plays a large part in the “Runnaissance,” a phenomenon explored by Highsnobiety previously. But Kipchoge maintains that it’s also the mental — as well as obvious physical — benefits of running that play a part in the sport’s continued meteoric rise in popularity since the ’70s.
“The best therapy to treat depression or tiredness and fatigue is to go running. When you’re running, you get ideas and solutions. During Covid-19 many people are working in their homes and doing their meetings virtually,” explains Kipchoge. “When you’re running and then go back to sit behind your computer, you’re fit and ready to address the issues at your place of work.”
Covid-19 also had a big impact on Kipchoge’s routine, as elite and casual athletes alike had to figure out how to stay active with gyms and training camps closed. Kipchoge went into isolation and kept up his regimen, as have so many athletes around the world. “The only thing [we can do] is run and hope to chase Covid away,” he says.
As an elite runner, Kipchoge knows Nike’s performance running gear better than most. While the Nike Alphafly is undoubtedly the fastest shoe in the game, it’s something else that sets it apart from the competition. “The beauty of the Alphafly is the recovery during training. Your muscles aren’t actually tearing or wearing so easily. So you can recover a lot faster,” Kipchoge explains.
Aesthetically, it’s clear what attracts runners from all skill levels — including Kipchoge — to the Nike Alphafly. “The sole is the shoe. That’s my favorite part,” he says with a smile while holding up his Kenyan-inspired pair on Zoom.
The aforementioned growth of running has been a consistent trend over the past few years. And while Covid-19 restrictions and Nike’s knack for producing cool products has helped accelerate that trend in 2020, Kipchoge sees an even brighter future: “The whole sport will move the world. If you want a country to be fruitful, you need to have the people engage in sport and running will be a big part of that.”
The Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% “Kenya” is inspired by the Kenyan flag and was debuted by Kipchoge during the London Marathon. It will be available on October 11 exclusively for Nike Members in the UK via the NRC App, with broader availability expected in 2021. Head to Nike.com for more.