Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Four months ago, on the very same weekend, Eliud Kipchoge became the first human to run a marathon in under two hours, and fellow Kenyan Brigid Kosgei shattered the women's marathon record.

Why it matters: Kipchoge and Kosgei were both wearing Nike's controversial Vaporfly sneakers, which many believed would be banned because of the performance boost provided by a carbon-fiber plate in the midsole that acted as a spring and saved the runner energy.

  • Instead, World Athletics, track and field's governing body, published new rules last month regarding sole thickness and carbon-fiber plates that effectively rendered the Vaporfly legal.

Driving the news: Competing brands are now scrambling to build their own shoes to compete with the Vaporfly, and the clock is ticking.

  • The U.S. Olympic marathon trials are this weekend in Atlanta, and shoe companies are still playing catch-up as they adjust to the new norm.
  • The Tokyo Olympic marathons are in August, and any prototype that a runner wants to wear must be available at retail by April 30 — a deadline that has grown increasingly difficult to meet as Chinese manufacturers combat the coronavirus.

What they're saying: While rival companies are confident that their carbon-fiber plate designs will eventually be on par with the Vaporfly, Nike's formidable lead has forced them to acknowledge the gap that currently exists.

  • The head of Saucony even went as far as to say she would be open to allowing one of her sponsored runners to wear a competitor's shoes if he felt he'd be at a disadvantage without them.
  • "We would have to consider that," said Saucony president Anne Cavassa, per the Wall Street Journal.

The big picture: Running, the most elemental of sports, now faces the same "human ability vs. technological innovation" challenge that other sports like tennis (rackets) and swimming (full-body suits) have encountered.

The bottom line: The running industry is in the midst of a high-tech shoe revolution, and the outcome will affect everything from shoe sales and stock prices to who wins Olympic gold.

Go deeper: Ethiopian runner smashes half-marathon record in Nike Vaporfly shoes

Go deeper

Coronavirus surge punctures oil's recovery

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The growth of coronavirus cases is "casting a shadow" over oil's recovery despite the partial demand revival and supply cuts that have considerably tightened the market in recent months, the International Energy Agency said Friday.

Why it matters: IEA's monthly report confirms what analysts have seen coming for a long time: Failure to contain the virus is a huge threat to the market rebound that has seen prices grow, but remain at a perilous level for many companies.

2 hours ago - Sports

Big Ten's conference-only move could spur a regionalized college sports season

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Big Ten announced Thursday that it will move all fall sports to a conference-only schedule.

Why it matters: This will have a snowball effect on the rest of the country, and could force all Power 5 conferences to follow suit, resulting in a regionalized fall sports season.

The second jobs apocalypse

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

This week, United Airlines warned 36,000 U.S. employees their jobs were at risk, Walgreens cut more than 4,000 jobs, Wells Fargo announced it was preparing thousands of terminations this year, and Levi's axed 700 jobs due to falling sales.

Why it matters: We have entered round two of the jobs apocalypse. Those announcements followed similar ones from the Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott and Choice hotels, which all have announced thousands of job cuts, and the bankruptcies of more major U.S. companies like 24 Hour Fitness, Brooks Brothers and Chuck E. Cheese in recent days.