1974 – Ian Thompson

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21-Jan-1974 – Commonwealth Games – 2:09:12 – Reebok 2:05
Date of birth: 16-Oct-1949
Nationality: English
World Record Duration: 4 years, 5 days

The athlete:                
Ian Thompson was considered a capable club-level athlete, running in shorter distances at the start of his athletics career. It was not until his invitation to make up the numbers at the Amateur Athletics Association of England marathon championship in 1973 that he made his mark. In the first race longer than 10 miles, he proceeded to outpace the field over the last 6 miles of the race and set the fastest ever marathon debut at the time – 2:12:40.

It qualified him for the 1974 Commonwealth Games, held in New Zealand. The pace on the course was quick, Thompson going head to head with Derek Clayton for the first part of the race. Thompson flew past the halfway mark in 64 minutes and would soon start building a lead that would never be threatened. He would finish more than two minutes clear of his nearest competition, and seconds over the 2:09 barrier.

Because of the issues with the course Clayton ran in 1969, which you can read more about here, Thompson’s achievement is considered by the Association of Road Racing Statisticians as the marathon world record at the time. Separate to that, his time incredibly still stands as the Commonwealth Games marathon record. Thompson would not rest on his laurels, going on to win the European Championships in Rome later that year.

Thompson would unfortunately fail to make selection for the 1976 Olympics due to cramps suffered in the trials for selection. Although he would still go on to win several more marathons across the world, he never quite recaptured the form that had brought him so much success in his earlier days.

The shoes:                   

Identifying what Thompson wore was initially tricky, but looking at the shoes he sported in 1973 gives the critical hint that they were early Reeboks. Given the distinct purple upper, they appeared to be the boldly named 2:05, with the period advertisement here confirming the style of overlays. The next question was the identity of the golden shoes from 1974, with their orange overlays looking like those featured on the 2:05. I was assisted greatly by no less than Joe Foster, the co-founder of Reebok, and Ian Thompson himself. Foster confirmed that the shoe in question was definitely the 2:05. It was an updated version of the World 10 made famous by Ron Hill, still featuring the tough but lightweight suede used on that earlier model. 

Thompson however wore a version made using golden leather which you can see in the attached picture he so generously provided. As you can see, they were without question from the same minimalist mould of the World 10. I was also able to locate a picture of the shoes that Hill wore for the 1972 Olympics, which were also the 2:05 but this time in metallic silver, with even more perforations for lightness! Unfortunately the 2:05 has not been rereleased by Reebok. Pairs may be hard to find, but thanks again to Ian Thompson and Joe Foster who have allowed us to take a closer look at this handsome silhouette.