Mumbai Marathon 2020: Ethiopian runners, Nike Vaporfly shoes dominate as men’s course record falls

  • This year’s Mumbai Marathon winner, Derara Hurisa, usually runs with Adidas shoes, but on Sunday, he ran with the Nike Vaporflys.

  • Hurisa claimed he had misplaced his running shoes on the flight, and had borrowed the Vaporflys from runner Abraham Girma.

  • The fact that many of the runners in Sunday’s elite field wore the shoes coincided with the fact that 7 male runners finished under the 2:10 mark.

Three Ethiopian runners — Derara Hurisa, Ayele Abshero and Birhanu Teshome — posted timings under the course record of 2:08:35secs at the Mumbai Marathon on Sunday, but all the attention was focused on the lime green and neon pink shoes they were running with.

 Mumbai Marathon 2020: Ethiopian runners, Nike Vaporfly shoes dominate as men’s course record falls

Ethiopia's Derara Hurisa crosses the finish line at the 2019 Mumbai Marathon. Image courtesy: Mumbai Marathon

Hurisa, only 22 years of age, was a last-minute addition to the elite men’s field and was making his full marathon debut on Sunday. But he accelerated away from his compatriots on the last kilometre of the 17th edition of the Mumbai Marathon to finish with a timing of 2:08:09secs, thereby smashing the course record by 36 seconds. Abshero (2:08:20secs) and Teshome (2:08:26secs) sealed a podium for Ethiopian runners.

Unsurprisingly, all three runners were racing in the revolutionary, but controversial, Nike Vaporfly shoes. In fact, most of the male elite athletes running in the lead pack were seen sporting the shoes, which are said to give a runner a four percent advantage. Given the controversial make-up of the shoes, World Athletics is said to be considering banning them from competitions.

The women's winner Amane Beriso was also sporting Nike shoes, although she claimed they were not the Vaporflys.

The same shoes have created waves around the world after Eliud Kipchoge used a custom-made variation of the shoe to dip under the fabled two-hour mark at the INEOS 1:59 Challenge in an unofficial run last year. The Vaporflys also powered Brigid Kosgei on her way to smashing the women’s marathon record at Chicago in 2019 by a minute and 21 seconds, a record that had stood since 2003. The shoes are said to be so effective that East African runners are said to be rejecting contracts from rival shoe manufacturers in order to run in the Vaporflys.

This year’s Mumbai Marathon winner, Hurisa, usually runs with Adidas shoes, but on Sunday, he ran with the Vaporflys. On being asked why he had ditched his regular brand of shoes, the Ethiopian had a curious reply.

“I misplaced my shoes while travelling from Addis Ababa to Mumbai earlier in the week so I borrowed these Nike shoes from my friend Abraham Girma (who was also competing in Mumbai Marathon). I only tried them on for the first time yesterday,” he claimed.

He tried to downplay the advantage the shoes had given him during his course record-breaking run on Sunday echoing the sentiments of the pre-race favourite Cosmas Lagat. On Saturday, Lagat had told reporters: “These are like normal training shoes. It’s about the person running, not about the shoes. There’s no difference. No impact!”

The actual effect of the shoes are disputed, but the introduction of the shoe — branded as technological doping in some quarters — has led to a split in long-distance running circles. Many — like 1984 Olympian Tim Hutchings, who is an TV analyst and commentator for some of the biggest races across the world — have called for the Vaporflys to be banned due to the substantial advantage they were giving runners.

The fact that many of the runners in Sunday’s elite field wore the shoes coincided with the fact that seven of the male runners finished under the 2:10 mark, making it the fastest race at Mumbai.

Meanwhile, it is learnt that Hurisa running in Nike shoes is not a contractual violation, since he does not have a contract with any brand at the moment.

“I don’t have a contract with any brand. Adidas sends me shoes. But there’s no contract,” he said.

In fact, many of the elite runners who hit the streets of Mumbai on Sunday morning don’t have contracts with any brand, but usually get kits sent to them by brands, thereby giving them the option of using them or not.

“The 2:03, 2:04 and 2:05 runners usually have contracts with brands. Runners that win championships — a 2:10 can win you a World Championship — can also be given contracts,” Daan Berg, who was part of an agency that has been bringing elite foreign athletes to the Mumbai Marathon for many years now, said. “Most of the athletes who ran at the Mumbai Marathon are not contracted by any brand. They can run wearing shoes from one brand, a vest from a rival brand and shorts from a third brand.”

Berg said all the focus on the shoes was unfair on the athletes and caused a lot of frustration among runners.

“The athletes are just frustrated with all this talk. They work so hard to be the best and win races like the Mumbai Marathon. They train in really primitive circumstances. Of course the shoes help, just like you’re in a fast boat, you’re faster than if you were in a slow boat!

“I don’t really believe the shoes help in terms of speed. But they may help in creating a situation where a runner is more rested at the 30km mark. All the other brands have also adjusted after Nike’s Vaporfly, they all have the carbon plates in their shoes. But they’re just a little slower than the Nike shoes.”

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Updated Date: Jan 19, 2020 18:01:42 IST