1980 – Gerard Nijboer

Source: Conno du Fossé via Facebook

26-Apr-1980 – Amsterdam Marathon – 2:09:01 – Adidas Marathon 80
Date of birth: 18-Aug-1955
Nationality: Dutch
World Record Duration: 1 years, 7 months, 10 days

The athlete:                
Gerard Nijboer entered the 1980 Amsterdam Marathon relatively unknown in international marathon circles. Once the race itself started, Nijboer found the crowd control to be somewhat lacking, with spectators crossing in front while he and other competitors were at full flight. He said that the frustration from the chaos actually drove him to run faster.

He still managed to create some of his own chaos by stopping in the latter part of the marathon to tie his shoelaces, an unintentional nod to Bill Rodgers’ heroics at the 1975 Boston Marathon. It clearly didn’t make too much difference, as when he crossed the line he had only just missed out on breaking the 2:09 barrier.

For reasons explained in detail here about Derek Clayton’s 1969 marathon performance, Nijboer’s time was considered by the Association of Road Running Statisticians as the new marathon world record. Nijboer would finish the year with silver at the 1980 Olympics, only beaten by the defending champion Waldemar Cierpinski. 1982 would see Nijboer entering the World Championships hosted in Athens. It would be held on the updated course that had hosted the first modern Olympic marathon in 1896 that itself was based on the legend of Pheidippides.

Crowd control was even more problematic for Nijboer than his run in Amsterdam, with officials unintentionally blocking competitors’ access to their water. Motorcycles, which I assume were ridden by officials, kept accidentally cutting off the competitors. The dehydration became serious for Nijboer, who started feeling pain in his feet which worryingly went away at 35 kilometres when he lost all feeling.

Even though he would go onto win the gold, his efforts were incredibly not enough to beat the course record set by Bill Adcocks back in 1969, which would incredibly stand until the 2004 Olympics. As for Nijboer, the physical effects would last throughout his career, requiring him to wear shoes bigger than he had before the injury. He would go on to win the Amsterdam Marathon again in 1988 and 1989, but could not quite capture the success he enjoyed in 1980.

The shoes:                   

We have one clear photo of Nijboer from the day he set the marathon world record, as well as when he came second at the 1980 Olympics. Both show the distinct silhouette of the Adidas Marathon 80 in its bold blue and yellow colourway. The Marathon 80 was more famous for powering Grete Waitz to three straight victories at the New York City Marathon from 1978-1980.

As discussed in my entry about Waitz, the Marathon 80 saw Adidas relaunching its running shoe line. There was nothing lighter in their range, the shoe weighing 178 grams. The latest marathon weapon from Adidas, the Adidas AdiZero Adios Pro, comes in at 227 grams by comparison. However, it uses sophisticated carbon-fibre rods to replicate the human foot and features a greater stack height.

The Marathon 80 used a heel spoiler to guide runners through their gait, helping improve shock absorption. Adidas used rubber studs in the outsole, formulated to give traction in all conditions. It even features little Adidas trefoil logos, although not as extreme as the pattern on the Adidas Marathon TR.

Adidas has retroed the Marathon 80, however they haven’t done so recently. There still should be wearable pairs out there if you look around. There is even an almost identical colourway to what Nijboer, and Waitz of course, wore to their respective marathon victories.