1975 – Christa Vahlensieck

Source: Spiridon Issue #20 Juin 75 

3-May-1975 – Dülmen Marathon – 2:40:15.8 – EB Lydiard Road Runner
Date of birth: 27-May-1949
Nationality: West German (at the time)
World Record duration: 5 months, 9 days

The athlete:                
There is only limited information about Christa Vahlensieck online, which is both disappointing and surprising given her pioneering achievements in distance running. She ran in whatever distances were available to her, so when the opportunity to run the marathon distance became available she took it.

Under the tutelage of legendary Ernst van Aaken, who had promoted the cause of women’s running since the fifties, she rapidly made good on her promise. In her marathon debut Vahlensieck would break the 3 hours barrier and set the new European record. Next year she would go even faster and run 2:53:01 on the way to second at the legendary Boston Marathon.

After finish fourth at the Women’s International Championship in Waldniel, organised by van Aaken, she significantly increased her training. Later that year she won the Essen Marathon in 2:42 :38, her new regime apparently securing her the new marathon world record. Unfortunately the course was found no less than 754 metres shorter than the required distance. She was motivated to try again, and it would not be long before she had another chance to beat the benchmark set by Jacqueline Hansen.

At the 1975 Dülmen Marathon, Vahlensieck faced no such issues and her time or 2:40:15.8 was the new marathon world record. She was quite modest about her achievements as well, saying that the world record was great but you couldn’t buy anything for it. Vahlensieck considered herself a hobbyist, still maintaining a regular job and training for weekends to get ready for competition. She was however certainly not done with the marathon distance.

The shoes:                   

We have one clear photo from that fateful day in Dulmen, showing Vahlensieck wearing running shoes featuring particularly thick midsoles. The diamond shaped logo on the side marks them out as EB Lydiard. The brand was created in collaboration between famed running coach Arthur Lydiard and German manufacturer Brütting. As for the model, they were the Road Runner training shoe. The midsole cradles the foot either side which explains the substantial appearance of the shoe.

It may be somewhat unusual for the world record to have been set in such footwear, however Vahlensieck was no ordinary athlete. She would compete in many different EB Lydiard models as the years progressed and could still be seen racing in the Road Runner at some points in 1977. As with the much lighter Marathon model, Brütting still makes the Road Runner today for sale.

Marathon Woman by Kathrine Switzer
A Long Time Coming by Jacqueline Hansen
Spiridon Issue #20 Juin 75

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