By the 30 km mark, a new course record was on the cards. And so it happened, when Ethiopia’s Derara Hurisa stormed down the last 1000m stretch to break Gideon Kipketer’s four-year old course record at the Mumbai Marathon by 26 seconds, setting a new mark of 2:08:09. But it wasn’t just Hurisa who bettered Kipketer’s old standard (2:08:35) – the first three international men’s athletes bettered that mark, and all three wore a variant of the Nike Vaporfly, adding to the list of course records and personal bests that have come by athletes wearing those shoes.
In fact, this was to become what marathon commentator Tim Hutchings rated the fastest edition of the Mumbai Marathon after seven men’s runners finished inside the 2:10:00 hr mark, and all seven runners seemingly sported a pair of the Vaporflys.
Even women’s winner Amane Beriso was seen sporting a lime-green selection when she fell short of breaking the women’s course record by a mere 18 seconds. Curiously enough though, when the winners walked into the press briefing after their races, they sported an Adidas tracksuit and matching shoes. “I misplaced my (Adidas) shoes while travelling to Mumbai earlier this week,” Hurisa, who was running his first ever marathon, said through a translator. “I don’t have a contract with Adidas, so I borrowed this pair from my friend Abraham Girma, who was also running. I only wore the shoes for the first time yesterday.”
Beriso in turn explains that since she has not competed in 15 months due to injury, she has no contract with Adidas, and that she wasn’t wearing the Vaporfly shoes, although was seen wearing a Nike selection. The athletes may not have had sponsors and were free to wear gear of their choice. But the Vaporfly has become the shoe of choice. The American sportswear giant had first introduced the shoe-type as part of an experiment to see if it could enable a runner to pass the seemingly impossible task of running the length of a marathon in under two hours. On October 12, Nike armed Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge with a specially modified prototype of the shoe and controlled the elements at a course designed in Vienna. Kipchoge responded by clocking a historic 1:59:40 hrs. A day later, wearing the Vaporfly’s, Brigid Kosgei broke Paula Radcliffe’s 16-year-old women’s world record. It caused a ripple effect and suddenly, more runners – professionals and amateurs alike – grew desperate to use the shoes. In turn, athletes wearing the shoes have been breaking course records and setting their own personal bests. “Of course the shoes help, just like if you’re in a fast boat, you’re faster than if you were in a slow boat,” said Mumbai Marathon’s elite athlete coordinator Daan Haag.
The popularity of the shoe has been undeniable. In the first week of January, Japan holds the annual Hakone Ekiden event – a relay two-day marathon held between around 10 colleges in Japan. It is considered one of the most watched road races in the island-nation, and in the 100th year edition of the event two weeks back, over 84 percent of the runners wore a pair of the Vaporfly shoes based on statistics shared by Ekiden News and reported by Bloomberg. The report further claimed that seven athletes wore Asics shoes compared to the 51 from 2019, and nine wore Mizuno shoes as opposed to the 24 from last year. In the last week however, Nike’s rivals have been buoyed by news that World Athletics is reviewing the shoe and may potentially ban the shoes from competitive events.
In that case, Hutchings is wary of the impending fiasco. “They are going to have to go back on performance charts and lists and rankings on every race. Athletes are going to have to own up or (World Athletics are) going to have to go through videos to look at the athletes’ shoes. This will effect national and world records, it’ll effect bonuses. Then if they set new national or world records and get bonuses, those records, in my opinion haven’t been genuinely earned,” he added.
As of now, the course record at the Mumbai Marathon has been bettered, until further notice.
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