Kenenisa Bekele went into the 2017 London Marathon the heavy favourite. But after a first half under world record pace, the Ethiopian fell well off the lead pack. He later claimed that it wasn’t his fitness, but his shoes that caused him to alter his stride and slow down.
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He was battling a blister caused by a new pair of Nikes. Some mused that it was ironic that a pair of the company’s new Breaking2 project shoes caused one of the greatest distance runners of all-time to actually slow down. But it turns out Bekele wasn’t actually wearing the shoes Nike hopes will breaking two hours next month on a F1 track in Italy.
The shoe giant, which has been testing its revolutionary new shoes fitted with a carbon spring plate, says Bekele was not running London in the VaporFly Elite. Instead, Bekele has been wearing the more consumer-oriented version, called the VaporFly 4%, which he’s been spotted wearing in the past. Bekele hasn’t had issues with the model previously, having run the second fastest marathon in history(2:03:03) in a pair last year when he won Berlin. But apparently this fresh pair bothered the 5,000m and 10,000m world record holder, enough to have him drop significantly off the lead pack, before he staged an impressive late charge to place second.
The VaporFly Elite will be worn by Eliud Kipchoge, Lilesa Desisa and Zersenay Tadese–the three men selected to attempt running under two hours in the marathon in early May at a highly controlled event on a race track in Monza, Italy. The Elite model is custom designed for each athlete. Bekele has not been included in the Breaking2 project, although he has been used as a tester of the technology since at least 2016, along with other notable Nike athletes. Bekele is also aligned with another sub-two hour project, called Sub 2.
Adding insult to injury, it also appears that Bekele had a bit of a chaffing issue with his white singlet on Sunday. Apparently, even the world’s greatest runners are still not immune to common marathon problems, including bloody nipples.