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Tadese, multiple world half marathon champion, also finished with a massive personal best of 2:06.51 although double Boston Marathon victor Desisa - who has a best of 2:04:45 - was lapped and tottered home in a time of 2:14.10.

The current marathon world record was set by Kenya's Dennis Kimetto on September 28, 2014, who finished the Berlin Marathon at 2:02:57.

Two-time Boston Marathon victor Lelisa Desisa, from Ethiopia, and Eritrean half-marathon world-record holder Zersenay Tadese were also participating in the the Breaking2 project, which was sponsored by sportswear company Nike.

MILAN (AP) - On the 63rd anniversary of Roger Bannister breaking the four-minute mile, three elite athletes will attempt to run through another barrier - the two-hour marathon.

The race began in pre-dawn gloom at a brutal pace behind pacemakers who were world class runners in their own right, including former world champion middle distance runner Bernard Lagat of the United States. It was a departure from normal marathon races, where runners jockey for position against thousands of competitors and must navigate through hilly sections.

Because this is Nike, you already know that means they have been working on designing brand new running shoes for the world record attempt.

Nike calls the attempt to shave three minutes off the current world record a moonshot.

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Kipchoge ran each mile at an average pace of around four minutes and 36 seconds.

"It will need a fast course and a competitive race because athletes bring out the best in each other when they are racing against other athletes", said Bedford.

"We believe that once a sub-two-hour marathon is done, the records will fall at traditional marathons after that", Brad Wilkins, director of NXT Generation Research in the Nike Sport Research Lab, told CNN. Kipchoge's personal record is 2:03:05, set at the 2016 London marathon. "The only other course that can bring the World record is Berlin which is held in September", said Letting. The duo still completed the marathon with Tadese shaving almost four minutes off his personal best with a time of 2:06:51. The duo still completed the 17.5 laps of the 1.5-mile Monza track with Tadese shaving almost four minutes off his personal best with a time of 2:06:51.

In 2014, sportswear brand Nike launched a project - "Breaking2" - dedicated to achieving that goal. Lelisa Desisa and Zersenay Tadese, both world class runners themselves, finished the marathon distance behind Kipchoge after falling back earlier in the race.

Adidas is working on the sub-two-hour marathon as well.

Backed by a small army of scientists and helped by an ever-changing battalion of pacesetters, Kipchoge set a ferocious pace of 4min 34sec per mile, seven seconds quicker than the pace of Kimetto's existing world record. "But I've never seen anything like what we saw today".