29-Mar-1981 – London Marathon – 2:29:57 – Puma Super Sonic
Date of birth: 26-Oct-1937
World Record duration: 9 months, 18 days
1981 saw the first ever London Marathon, and Joyce Smith was one of many lined up to take the start. There is unfortunately little information about how Smith performed that rainy day, but when she finished her time was just past the 2:30 barrier. In winning the women’s category, Smith had finished 138th overall of over 6,700 competitors and nine minutes ahead of her nearest rival.
While Grete Waitz had set course records of below 2:30 at the New York City Marathon in 1979 and 1980, that course was found in 1985 to be short but only results from the 1981 event were invalidated. Accordingly, the Association of Road Racing Statisticians considers Smith to be the first woman to officially break the 2:30 barrier. You can read more about that in my article about the New York City Marathon here. However you look at it, she was one of the fastest women in the world over the marathon distance. She would go on to win the London Marathon again in 1982, and made the start of the first women’s Olympic marathon in 1984.
When she would eventually retire in 1986, Smith said her only regret was that she had started her marathon career so late. It was still a remarkable career that had showcased her athletic versatility, Smith having witnessed and participated in the evolution of women’s distance running.
What Smith wore is visible in the photo near the finish, with the dark blue overlays across the lighter blue upper, with the white patented Puma formstrip along the midfoot. Those are the same features as found on the shoes she wore the year before in Tokyo. You can read more about the Puma Super Sonic in the article on Joyce Smith’s achievement in the Tokyo International Women’s Marathon in 1980.