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What would Jerome Drayton’s marathon time be with today’s shoe technology?

Happy 78th Birthday to a pioneer in Canadian distance running. Drayton's 2:10:09 at the 1975 Fukuoka Marathon was only 57 seconds off the world record at the time

Canadian Running- Jerome Drayton running in the 1976 Fukuoka Marathon Photo by: Japan Track & Field Magazine

At Japan’s Fukuoka Marathon in 1975, Canada’s Jerome Drayton smashed his Canadian record from 1969 to win the marathon in 2:10:09–a record that stood for 43 years until Cam Levins broke it at the 2018 Toronto Waterfront Marathon (2:09:25). When Levins set the record, he ran in the Hoka Carbon Rocket X, a shoe with carbon-plated technology Drayton did not have. Both times are remarkable, but it makes us wonder what Drayton’s time would translate to today if he had had carbon-plated shoes. 

Canadian Running - Jerome Drayton winner of the 1975 Fukuoka Marathon and set Canadian Marathon record
Drayton after winning the 1975 Fukuoka Marathon, setting the Canadian record of 2:10:09

In the 70s, the Fukuoka Marathon had the reputation as the unofficial world championship, as organizers would invite the best marathoners from around the world to compete. Drayton won the race three times in seven years, beating the likes of marathon greats American Frank Shorter and Japan’s Shigeru So.

April 18, 1977, Boston: Jerome Drayton, who won in 2:14:46, poses with Miki Gorman, 41, the women’s winner in 2:47:11.

When Drayton set his record, he wasn’t wearing the Adidas Adizero Pro or the Nike Vaporfly. He had the Adidas SL76 on his feet, which was described as ‘the shoes for all seasons,’ built for pounding the roads in the marathon and jogging around the block. The shoe featured super-light technology, a ghillie loop lacing system and an EVA midsole–in short, a lightweight, flat running shoe. 

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Eliud Kipchoge
A close look at Eliud Kipchoge’s Nike Zoom Vaporfly OG. Photo: Nike

In a 2021 video. Brigham Young University student Easton Allred discussed the development of carbon-plated shoes with a professor of biomechanics, Dr. Iain Hunter, who studies how people can run faster by the way they move. The two discussed whether carbon-plated shoes affect athletic performance and how much time they could take off each kilometre.

Hunter found that the top carbon-plated shoes can take off two to three seconds per kilometre.

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If you take Drayton’s time of 2:10:09 and take two seconds off each kilometre, it correlates to approximately 84 seconds off his time (2:08:45). Again, this calculation is hypothetical, but that time has only been touched by one Canadian marathoner to date (Cam Levins’s Canadian record of 2:07:10 at the 2022 World Championships in Eugene).

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