To celebrate Her Majesty's 70 year record time in-post, we thought we would take a look at how Marathon running has changed over the years under her charge, and what a change we have seen in such a relatively short space of time!
So how were marathons shaping up during her majesty's reign? Let's take a look;
Mateo Flores - 1952
1952, the year Queen Elizabeth II was handed the reigns, saw Guatemalan Mateo Flores take the crown as the winner of the Boston Marathon, with a finishing time of 2:31:53. This marked the 55th Boston Marathon, with the event having been established back in 1897.
Mateo Flores, Boston Marathon, 1952
It's amazing to look back in time and see what runners wore for marathons. Flores appears to be wearing a thick cotton t-shirt with ill fitting shorts which look a bit on the baggy side! The socks appear to be thick and woolly, the kind you wear for colder climates in the winter, not for running marathons in!
But the most remarkable feature of all is the footwear, Flores is running in shoes with flat soles! 26.2 miles on tarmac with no cushioning and support for his feet and he still ran in 2:31 - we are slightly blown away by this! It’s a far cry from today where we have the latest choice of carbon plate technology in shoes to choose from!
Roger Bannister - 1954
In 1954, aged 25 years old, Roger Bannister ran for Great Britain breaking the record for the fastest 4 minute mile, at 3:59.4. Breaking ground amongst other historical moments in time, Bannisters success took place just one year after Queen Elizabeth II was crowned, as well as being a year since Mount Everest was climbed - clearly there was something in the air!
Roger Bannister's 1952 running vest - now that's an applique we can get on board with! Image Credit: www.iffleyroad.com
Kathrine Switzer - 1967
1967 was huge Boston Marathon landmark moment for the future of women's running; runner Kathrine Switzer, on joining the race, was attacked by the race organiser, due to her being a woman! Switzer had applied to the race using only her first initial and surname, and it was assumed she was a male, since the race wasn't considered open to women. The pair later became good friends, however, Switzer has since recounted her, now well known story, and delivers inspirational talks to women around safety.
Kathrine Switzer, Boston Marathon, 1967
Running attire of the 1960's looks as though fashion and function is moving on somewhat. Switzer appears to be running in a long sleeve sweater with thick jogging bottoms, the kind of gear you would wear for a 5k easy jog around the park, not for a full marathon race where you want to feel your lightest and are pushing your body to the limit. Quite remarkable!
However it looks as though running trainers were starting to develop now, she appears to be wearing some Adidas racing flat style Plimsolls, still a million miles from what we wear in marathons these days, but at least progression from shoes!
Nina Kuscsik - 1972
A great effort and the ultimate statement on Switzer's behalf in 1967, however, it was actually Nina Kuscsik, who at 33 years old became the first woman to win the Boston Marathon in 1972, with a finish time of 3:10:26. Kuscsik was joined by just seven fellow women in this inaugural women's marathon.
Nina Kuscsik, Boston Marathon, 1972
In the 1970's now and we are starting to see clothing being made that appears more practical for marathon racing. Kuscsik is wearing a t-shirt with a collar which does seem a little unusual but the shorts are a big step forward, appearing to be tight fitting hotpant (lycra) style which are still very popular amongst some of the female elite runners today!
Dick Beardsley and Inge Simonsen - 1981
Finally, in 1981, the first London Marathon was launched. Around 20,000 runners submitted applications to race, however 7055 runners were recorded to have started the race, reducing to 6255 finishing.
The winners of the inaugural London Marathon were USA’s Dick Beardsley and Norway’s Inge Simonsen, finishing the course in an impressive 2:11:48.
Dick Beardsley and Inge Simonsen, London Marathon, 1981. Image Credit: London Marathon Archive
10 years on fashion-wise, and the start of the 1980's saw some dramatic progress being made. We now have racing vest/singlets and short shorts! This is now all about faster running and being as light as possible. Advancements in running shoes is there for all to see, with more brands entering the market, with racing flats still the shoe of choice.
It’s worth taking a step back and looking at the times these runners ran back in the 80's wearing racing flats with minimal cushioning making for a close ground contact feel, in comparison with the carbon plate shoes of today which propel you forward and protect your legs greatly during a marathon. Bravo we say!
Joyce Smith - 1981
Back to the London Marathon winners of 1981 and the UK’s very own Joyce Smith won the women’s race with a time of 02:29:57 - a considerable 40 minutes+ faster than Kuscsik completed the Boston Marathon 9 years earlier. Notably there are no finish line shots of Smith crossing the line – a sign of the times perhaps?
Joyce Smith, London Marathon, 1981. Image Credit: athleticsweekly.com
Similar to the men, Joyce was wearing short racing shorts with a vest and racing flat style shoes, and she ran London in 2:29:57 - wow is all we can say!
Brigid Kosgei - 2019
Fast forward to some notable finish times and 2019 saw Kenyan Brigid Kosgei complete the Chicago Marathon in an impressive 2:14:04.
Brigid Kosgei at Chicago Marathon 2019, Image Credit: Sky Sports
Almost 30 years on and we have entered a different era in terms of marathon racing clothing. For her world record run, Kosgei was wearing short hotpant style shorts with a crop top style vest, but the biggest advancement is in the shoes department with carbon plate shoes now a thing. Kosgei wore the Nike Vaporfly Next % which had only hit the market that year, but 3 years on from that they are arguably still the best carbon plate road shoes on the market. Although they do face stiff competition from other brands with new technologies being developed in the quest to produce the perfect midsole for running shoes, to help break further boundaries for fast running.
Eliud Kipchoge - 2019
That same year, fellow Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge took his fourth victory at the London Marathon, also qualifying to hold the record for the fastest finish on record, with a time of 02:02:37.
Eliud Kipchoge at Chicago Marathon 2019, Image Credit: Eliud Kipchoge via Facebook
Just to add to that stack of impressive titles in the history of the marathon, Kipchoge also holds the record for the fastest Marathon distance run, which took place in Vienna back in 2019. Kipchoge finished the time trial event, which was held in optimum marathon conditions, in a breath-taking 1:59:40!
Eliud Kipchoge at Vienna 2019, Image Credit: Eliud Kipchoge via Facebook
Arguably the greatest marathon runner of all time, Kipchoge continues to break boundaries in the marathon distance. He wears tight lycra style legging shorts for racing with super lightweight singlets/vests. When he broke the sub 2 hour landmark in 2019, he was wearing a prototype shoe called the Alphafly Next %, which is now one of the most popular racing shoes on the market. This was the first time we saw airpods introduced into the midsole of a running shoe, which combined with the carbon plate and soft midsole foam, creates the ultimate in bounce and propulsion! A dream combination some might say!
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