Adidas wins ‘super shoe’ battle against Nike in London Marathon

Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya celebrates winning the Women's elite race
Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya wins in Adidas's £450 shoes - Alex Davidson/Getty Images

When Alexander Munyao entered the mixed zone to be interviewed by the media after he had won the London Marathon, he had in his hand one of his running shoes. Written on the side were the numbers 2.04.01, his winning time.

“This is my best shoe,” he said, pointing to his time, penned across the carbon-reinforced heel.

As he flashed the shoe around the place, making sure everyone could see the evidence of his success, it will have pleased the manufacturer the winner was so keen to credit his footwear.

For Adidas this was a triumphal marathon. Not only was Munyao wearing the brand, so was the second-placed runner, the Ethiopian veteran Kenenisa Bekele As was Emile Cairess, the first Briton to stand on the finishing podium in 31 years. Not to mention the fourth-placed athlete, the other Briton Mahamed Mahamed, whose finish meant there were two Brits in the top four for the first time in the race since 1988. Not forgetting the women’s champion, the Kenyan Peres Jepchirchir, who set a new female world marathon record of 2.16.16. In her Adidas shoes.

Across the streets of the capital, the German company completely outflanked their great commercial rivals Nike in their race to produce the distance running super shoe. What an advert this was for the Adizero Adios Pro Evo 1, the jet propelled shoes that retail at a cool £450. Almost every runner in the top 10 of both the men’s and women’s races was wearing them as they shuffled across the mixed zone, their walking gait oddly compromised by the manner in which the shoe pushes the runner forwards.

As his bit of graffiti insisted, Munyao timed his run to perfection. With five kilometres to go, he was level with Bekele. It was a case of youth against experience. The Ethiopian was running in his sixth London marathon. At the age of 41 he was determined to win the race for the first time. For Munyao, 17 years his junior, this was the first time he had been to London. And, with a couple of kilometres left to run, along the Embankment, he made his move. Pushed forward by his shoes, he applied the acceleration of youth. Bekele immediately recognised he was beaten, checking his watch and looking over his shoulder, apparently wary he was about to be closed down by the resurgent British challenge.

For Munyao there was the added resonance of winning the race for Kenya, a year after his countryman Kelvin Kiptum triumphed. Kiptum died earlier this year in a car crash back in his home country, his contribution to the race acknowledged by the round of applause shared by all 50,000 runners in his name ahead of the start. And the new champion dedicated his victory to last year’s winner.

“May he rest in peace,” he said.

For Cairess too, there was an emotional reaction. His cousin Oliver had been in a serious car crash during the runner’s preparation for the race, and he too was thinking of others when he sealed himself a place in Britain’s team for the Paris, by finishing in 2.06.45, the second fastest marathon time ever recorded by a Briton and well within the Olympic qualifying time.

“This was for Oliver,” he said.