1-Dec-1974 – Western Hemisphere Marathon – 2:43:54.5 – Adidas Marathon
Date of birth: 20-Nov-1948
World Record duration: 5 months, 2 days
N.B. The reason the list of the women’s marathon world record commences here is because the fastest time the marathon was run barefoot by a woman is 2:45:34 by Phạm Thị Bình in 2013. As with the list of the men’s marathon world record, that achievement has its own page, and the list commences from the first time the world record was run faster than that benchmark.
Kathrine Switzer described Jacqueline Hansen as the possible next evolutionary step in the women’s marathon. Having shown reasonable pace in shorter distances, it was under the tutelage of the legendary coach Laszlo Tabori that Hansen proved Switzer correct. At her peak, Hansen ran as much as 140 miles each week after convincing Tabori that she wanted to try the marathon.
She made her marathon debut in 1972 at the Western Hemisphere, inspired by teammate and former world record holder Cheryl Bridges who had achieved this feat at the 1971 event. Hansen won, but with a finishing time much slower than Bridges. She would increase her training, her attention set on the 1973 Boston Marathon.
She immediately settled in among the fronrunners, Hansen eventually passing Nina Kuscsik on the infamous Heartbreak Hill, beating one of the race favourites in the process. She won in only the second time women were officially allowed to compete. Hansen had done so in 3:05:59.2, the new official course record for women. Her victory brought her to national prominence and invitations to further races, but her best was yet to come. This would be proven at the second Women’s International Championship in Waldniel, organised by Dr Ernst van Aaken who was one of the strongest and earliest proponents of distance running for women. Hansen came fifth which told her could compete against the best in the world.
Barely over one month later, she started again at the Western Hemisphere Marathon. Although she tried to keep it secret, everyone knew she was aiming for the current world record set by Chantal Langlacé earlier that year. With the benefit of all the training that had come since her debut, she smashed the world record and became the first woman under 2:45 in the marathon. This was only the start for Hansen, which you can read more about here.
We have pictures of Hansen competing at the 1974 Women’s International Championship, which is reinforced by photos we have of her donating the actual pair of Adidas Marathon flats she set the 1974 world record in to the Helms Athletics Foundation Museum in Culver City, Adidas happily providing her with a brand new pair to replace them. Unlike the version introduced in 1975 that featured an entirely kangaroo suede upper, these used a combination of nylon with suede for areas subject to higher wear. They were the latest entry in the series Adidas had introduced in the late sixties.
As you will see in the article on her 1975 world record, we have clear photos from the day showing her in the same model. She donated that pair to the Museum of World Athletics. Through their virtual museum, we can see them in clear detail. The pair that was donated to the Helms Athletics Foundation Museum eventually went to auction in 2016, which gives us a clear photo of them as well. Extremely lightweight, they had seen competition with many of the most talented distance runners of the time including one Abebe Bikila. An older version was also the shoe of choice for pioneer and fellow legend Kathrine Switzer. Despite this history, Adidas has not brought back the Marathon in any of the forms it saw during its life.
First Ladies of Running by Amby Burfoot
A Long Time Coming by Jacqueline Hansen
Marathon Woman by Kathrine Switzer