1982 – Joan Benoit

Source: Jeff Johnson (link under References)

12-Sep-1982 – Nike OTC Marathon – 2:26:12 – Nike Lady Terra T/C
Date of birth: 16-May-1957
Nationality: American
World Record duration: 7 months, 5 days

The athlete:                
The Nike Oregon Track Club Marathon, or Nike OTC Marathon, was sponsored by the company and notably launched in 1973 with categories for both men and women. This was significant given the Olympics would take until 1984 to introduce the women’s marathon as an event. Stepping up to start the 1982 Nike OTC Marathon, Joan Benoit had just finished recovering from surgery on both of her Achilles tendons. She would have been forgiven for wanting to ease back into competition, but that wasn’t her style. There is little information available about her performance that day, but when she crossed the line in 2:26:11, her nearest competitor was nearly eight minutes back.

It was also her new personal best, shaving over four minutes from her previous record. Reports would initially put her performance as the third fastest ever women’s marathon performance and the new American record. The Association of Road Racing Statisticians however recognise it as having been the world record. This is because the world record set by Grete Waitz around that time at the New York City Marathon was on a course that was found in 1985 to be short. Only results from 1981 were invalidated, but the ARRS note that Waitz set her world record on the same course. You can read more about that here.

What it means is that Benoit could claim to have held the marathon world record, albeit retrospectively. It would not stand for long, such was the heat of competition at the time, but Benoit would go on to win an event far more significant. You can read more about that here. She would also reclaim the marathon world record only a few years later, albeit on the Boston Marathon whose course is considered too steep for official records. More on that here.

The shoes:                   

We have several images of Benoit from the 1982 Nike OTC Marathon, where we can see white and dark blue Nike runners. Despite being a fan of the Daybreak model, which Nike apparently sent a box of to her after they were discontinued, she is wearing the Lady Terra T/C.

The Lady Terra T/C has overlays around the toebox that are shaped quite differently to the Daybreak, as you can see from the attached pictures. The Nike Terra series saw the introduction of Phylon foam, which just like the ZoomX foam Nike uses today promised lighter weight and greater cushion.

Phylon foam was also feted for its durability, with Nike claiming that after 600 miles of running it would have the same performance as if it were new. The Terra series has never been retroed by Nike, however the Air Tailwind 79 offers much of the same aesthetic.

Running Tide by Joan Benoit