INEOS 1:59 Challenge

Lasers Set the Pace

Eliud Kipchoge breaks the two-hour marathon barrier with help of ER Productions guiding laser.

On Saturday 12th October 2019, Olympic champion and world-record holder, Eliud Kipchoge completed his unbelievable sub two-hour marathon run in Vienna.


An estimated 500 million viewers tuned in to watch the INEOS 1:59 Challenge, where the athlete broke the two-hour marathon barrier by crossing the finish line in an incredible 1:59:40. Although the primed conditions and pacemaker support meant that the time was not logged as an official World Record, it was an incredible feat of human endeavour and endurance. ER Productions were exceptionally proud to have played a role in this landmark moment, designing the formation of and providing the 2x Phaenon X30 lasers that guided Kipchoge’s seven pacemakers as they flanked him in an inverted V-formation.


The brief was relatively simple, however the planning and execution required ER’s strategic expertise. The lasers were needed to project onto the ground in a formation pattern for the pace runners to follow. ER Project Manager Nicola Freer clarifies, ‘Essentially, what the organisers wanted to avoid was the pace runners running in wobbly lines along the track, therefore loosing valuable seconds.’ During his first attempt to break the barrier, during the Nike project Breaking2, Kipchoge ran the marathon in 2:00:25, so they really were looking at mere seconds between success and falling short.


ER Productions had to come up with an innovative shape that would keep the runners in line more effectively than the last time. Five runners at the front each had their own individual ‘track’ line, which were the vertical lines running from the back of the car towards the runners. Two horizontal pace lines were then added. One of these would fall just in front of the lead runner, and the second slightly further back towards the car, so that everyone in the pack was able to see clearly, without having to look down instead of up ahead.

The design and creation of this laser formation was not without its challenges. Right off the bat, with the marathon planned to take place during the day, the brightness of the lasers was identified as a potential issue. Daylight can make some types of laser look very dull, if not impossible to make out at all. ER Productions put forward the Phaenon PRO 30000, a stable, bright and reliable unit, which was rigorously tested beforehand. They built a mock rig at their own HQ, to resemble the height that the lasers would sit at once rigged to the pace vehicle. Various shapes, colours and movements were experimented with to see what looked the clearest on a grey road in daylight. In the end, it was a green static shape that was chosen as the optimum configuration. ‘Peak visibility for the human eye is around 555nm’ explains Freer, ‘and the green diode in this particular laser sits at 532nm’.


Another challenge faced was how much the lasers would move around whilst the car was in motion. ER Productions collaborated with RML Group to come up with a solution – incorporating a steady-cam gamble into the framework so that the whole laser would align itself to the road and keep the shape on the ground steady. There was also the issue of powering the lasers whilst on a moving vehicle. ER Productions’ R&D Manager, David Holmes, used an inverter to convert the car battery from 12v DC power to 230v AC power, thus creating a suitable mobile power source.


When relying on the assistance of technology in this way, it is always important to incorporate contingencies. Precautions were also taken to ensure that no matter what, the race would go on! Each car had a laser operator based in the vehicle, with a laptop to control the lasers and an E-stop to cut the lasers in the unlikely event of a fault or a misfire. ER also provided a back-up vehicle that was set-up identically to the main vehicle and could take over in the event of any fault. Both cars spent a few days ‘rehearsing’ scenarios such as change-over, finishing etc. to ensure that throughout the race and if a swap was required, they wouldn’t disturb the runners during any manoeuvres.


In a perfect partnership of human endeavour and technological accuracy, Eliud Kipchoge’s sub two-hour marathon run will be forever landmarked as setting a new standard of what is humanly possible.

Products we used

Phaenon Pro 30000

The most powerful full-colour laser system in its range, the Pro 30000 creates grating and lumier effects.