1984 – Ingrid Kristiansen

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13-May-1984 – London Marathon – 2:24:26 – Nike Mariah
Date of birth: 21-Mar-1956
Nationality: Norwegian
World Record duration: 11 months, 8 days

The athlete:                
Ingrid Kristiansen began her career on ski slopes, having won several Norwegian titles and the European Junior Championship. She had even been an alternate for the Norwegian skiing team at the 1976 Winter Olympics. Running was a major part of her training, and after the event she finally decided to enter some competitions. She did well, and fatefully took up the sport full-time. Her first marathon was in 1977, with Kristiansen finishing in 2:45.

The 1980 Stockholm Marathon would be her first marathon victory. That same year, Kristiansen also finished a creditable third at the New York City Marathon. 1981 would have the same schedule, Kristiansen securing another win and this time coming second in New York. She would make her European Championship debut the next year, securing third place. She was only 30 seconds behind winner and distance running legend Rosa Mota.

After winning the 1983 Houston Marathon, Kristiansen found her performance slipping in some of the shorter races she ran afterwards. There was good reason for her fatigue, Kristiansen was pregnant. She had been three months into her pregnancy during that victory. After her son Gaute was born, Kristiansen threw herself back into training, and five months later won the Houston Marathon again and with her first run under 2:28. She would keep getting progressively faster at the marathon, while also establishing herself in the 5,000 metres and 10,000 metre distances.

Kristiansen had several tough weeks of competition leading up to the 1984 London Marathon. She had only just won a ten kilometre race back in Oslo, and was having issues with her young boy’s sleep, an issue many parents could sympathise with. In addition to her physical training, Kristiansen also focussed on her mental conditioning in the lead up to the race.

Although there are few details available about the 1984 London Marathon, her result at the finish line spoke for itself, Kristiansen had achieved her goal of setting a new marathon world record and becoming the first woman to crack 2:25. Although Joan Benoit has run faster at the 1983 Boston Marathon, the course is considered by World Athletics to be ineligible for world records due to its steepness and the distance between the start and finish opening the possibility of favourable tail winds.

While these issues would later prevent Geoffrey Mutai from claiming the world record, World Athletics still list Benoit as having held the world record at the time. The Association of Road Running Statisticians, an independent group created years later by many former racing officials and supported by researchers from across the world, instead list Kristiansen as having held this distinction instead.

The shoes:                   

We fortunately have many clear pictures of Kristiansen from her victory. These include one of her stationary, where we can look closely at the overlays and midsole of her Nikes. What helps identify them even more clearly are the colour shots, where the off-white upper and black overlays are visible. There was only one model of Nike at the time with that colourway, and that was the Mariah.

Initially released in 1980, it was still available new as late as 1985, and clearly Kristiansen liked them enough to keep wearing them during this period. The Mariah was decidedly lightweight, coming in at 198 grams. They featured full-length air cushioning, which Nike found reduced energy expenditure by around two percent compared to lighter racing flats using more traditional technologies.

There were other features to help with stability, but the overall focus of the shoe was reducing weight as much as possible. As Nike said, they were built for speed. Kristiansen found even more pace from the Mariah the next year, her new world record standing unbeaten for over 13 years.

Nike clearly must have wished she was wearing something more current, so later in 1985 provided her with the incredible Sock Racer to debut at the Chicago Marathon. She finished second behind Joan Benoit, but the bright yellow shoes made an indelible impression before hitting shelves in 1986. With its stretchable mesh upper and two straps to reduce weight to the absolute extreme, the Sock Racer nonetheless had full length air cushioning.

Kristiansen would find considerable success with the model, winning both the Chicago Marathon and Boston Marathon in 1986. While the Mariah she wore during 1984 and 1985 has never come back from the vaults since its initial release, the Sock Racer has come back in various forms. Either with updated midsole units or most recently using Nike’s Flyknit for the upper, none have faithfully replicated the original.