One of the best running stories of the year came on March 26, when 39-year-old Chris Thompson ran to a PB and the win at the British Olympic Marathon Trials in London, booking his ticket to the Tokyo Games just days after becoming a father. According to a report from the U.K. news outlet The Telegraph, Thompson, who crossed the line in 2:10:50, was given special permission by On Running, his main sponsor, to run in blacked-out Nike Vaporfly Next% shoes.
GBR #OlympicTrials – @Thommo10k wins in 2:10:50 and will go to #TokyoOlympics. @bdconnor gets second in 2:12:06, and since he already had the qualifying standard he's on the team, too, joining pre-selected @callhawk. pic.twitter.com/V6pW9YQq33
— David Monti (@d9monti) March 26, 2021
Ever since Nike introduced its first carbon-plated shoe, the rest of the running world has been working to catch up. Several companies have closed that gap, but the Vaporfly Next% is still a go-to for many elite athletes. While On Running does have a carbon-plated shoe, the Cloudboom, it is not yet up to the standards that Nike, Adidas, ASICS and other brands have created.
The Telegraph spoke with a representative from On, who said the company wanted to help Thompson with “a temporary solution that put him in pole position for his quest towards an Olympic qualification.” The official continued, noting that On’s next addition to the carbon plate running scene is on its way, although it has taken the company “a little longer than expected to perfect.”
The Next % was reportedly the most-worn shoe at the British Trials, with carbon-plated shoes from other top companies peppered throughout the fields. Second-place Ben Connor wore New Balance and third-place Mo Aadan sported Nikes. On the women’s side, the top three runners wore Nike shoes.
Chris Thompson Ben Connor and Stephanie Davis celebrate their Tokyo selection at Kew Gardens pic.twitter.com/fv8V3N6Ird
— AW (@AthleticsWeekly) March 26, 2021
Thompson, who represented Great Britain at the 2012 Olympics in London in the 10,000m, has worn blacked-out Nikes once before, at the 2020 Vitality Big Half-Marathon in London. He ran to a near-PB of 1:01:07 at that race, placing second to Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele, a Nike-sponsored athlete.
After that run, Thompson said On is “a great bunch who want the best for their athletes, so much so they went above and beyond for me today.” A year later, On went above and beyond once more, again letting Thompson wear a rival brand’s shoe to help him run as fast as possible. At the post-race awards ceremony, Thompson could be seen wearing On shoes.