1984 – Steve Jones

Source: Tracksmith (link under References)

21-Oct-1984 – Chicago Marathon – 2:08:05 – Reebok London
Date of birth: 4-Aug-1955
Nationality: Welsh
World Record Duration: 5 months, 30 days

The athlete:                
Coming into the 1984 Chicago Marathon, Welshman Steve Jones was relatively unknown. Jones had only started training for the marathon distance after being invited to the 1983 event, having previously specialised in the 5,000 and 10,000 metre distances. That first marathon, the Chicago marathon, would be an inauspicious start. Jones twisted his ankle the night before the race, the injury forcing him out of his debut.

Jones took the intensity that he put into these shorter distances and applied it to his marathon training regime. The next year he would again take the start of the Chicago Marathon, and he would not repeat the disaster of his debut. His focus was simply on staying with the other competitors. Jones recalled asking Rob De Castella whether the clock was correct after they passed the first ten miles in 48:48, the Australian quipping that he could go faster if he liked.

Such was his composure that earlier in the race that Jones helped another competitor who nearly fell at an aid station. At the 20th mile, Jones accelerated and would complete the rest of the race at an average of 4 minutes and 46 seconds per mile. He recounts that when the director of the London Marathon yelled from the sidelines that he was two miles away from the record, he thought that it was only for the course. As it was, despite strong headwinds near the end, Jones crossed the line first and set the new marathon world record.

It would not be his last major achievement, with Jones going on to set course records at the London Marathon as well as winning the Chicago Marathon in 1985. Having left the field behind by the 16 kilometre mark, his pace on the way to victory that he passed halfway in 61:46 minutes, which was only 50 seconds slower than the half-marathon world record at the time. Until the 32 kilometre mark he was on the track to finish below 2:05. After that point the fury of his initial pace caught up with him, and Jones started slowing.

When he crossed the line he had done so in 2:07:13, one second away from the world record set by Carlos Lopes earlier in the year. His run would stand as the United Kingdom record until Mo Farah took it in 2018. Jones achieved this despite not having pacers and being his own coach from just before the 1984 Olympics until the fall of 1986. Jones had been called up to the 1988 Olympics after one of the team pulled out, but he couldn’t take up the poor as he had insufficient time to prepare. He would go on that year to win the New York City Marathon, the last win of his career coming at the 1992 Toronto Marathon.

The shoes:                   

As for the shoes, they were the Reebok London. Not to be confused with the Reebok Paris, which Jones would wear at the 1985 London Marathon. The Reebok London epitomised the style of racing flats popular at the time, coming in at 175 grams. Speaking of style, the London featured an asymmetrical colourway using blue and red on either side of the shoe, including having one heel tab in blue and one in red.

The London used midsole and outsole technology by Vibram, who would become known decades later for making barefoot running shoes. Even the pigskin upper was specially prepared so it could be as lightweight as possible. Reebok had created even lighter versions of the shoes for Jones with material punched out of the midsole, but he preferred the standard version for the race.

Reebok kept the London within their vaults for many decades, but brought it back in 2016. You could get the retro in the original colourway Jones wore, down to the split colourway described above, or one of many new takes on the silhouette including one very similar to the Reebok Paris.

The Reebok Paris was the sequel to the London, using slightly reduced toebox overlays to make the shoe even sleeker. The shoes weighed the same, but Jones was able to set his personal best in the Paris at 2:07:13, only one second away from recapturing the world record.

Reebok also kept the Paris hidden away, letting it back into the hands of the public in 2019. This included the original colourway and several new ones. Although you’ll have to look around to find them, there may even be new pairs floating around.