26-Sep-1999 – Berlin Marathon – 2:20:43 – Nike Air Streak
Date of birth: 9-May-1973
World Record duration: 2 years, 4 days
After setting the women’s marathon world record in 1998, Tegla Loroupe hardly rested on her laurels. She won the Rotterdam Marathon again in 1999 as well as another half-marathon championship crown. This was alongside multiple half-marathon wins across Europe. What still drove her was the chance to break the 2:20 barrier for women.
Her training had gone well. Loroupe and the organisers of the Berlin Marathon were so confident that she would break through that barrier that they gave her the number 219. With pacemakers calling her splits, Loroupe was 90 seconds ahead of her previous best in the early stages. Fatigue would begin to set in, and by halfway she was falling behind her world record pace.
At the 28 kilometre mark Loroupe found new reserves of energy and powered up the only significant incline of the course. By kilometre 32 she was back on track to break the world record. She would continue sprinting towards the finish and after 24.2 of 26.2 miles she was three seconds behind her previous best. She was disappointed not to get below 2:20, but she still set a new world record.
Loroupe would go on to win the 2000 London Marathon along with another half-marathon world championship among her other later victories. It was only Olympic gold that would elude her, the 2000 Olympics didn’t go according to plan, with Loroupe suffering severe food poisoning the night before the marathon event.
Despite some sources claiming otherwise, including initially Guinness World Records, Loroupe did not run the marathon at the 2000 Olympics barefoot. Although it would have made for an important and fascinating benchmark, Loroupe having trained in her earlier days without shoes, there is a clear picture from the event showing her wearing the Nike Air Streaks that had brought her so much success. I reached out to Guinness World Records, and they have since corrected their entry to reflect that Phạm Thị Bình holds this distinction.
Her achievements helped inspire the rise of African women in distance running, with future world record holder Catherine Ndereba citing her as the inspiration to start running herself. Loroupe further used her position to promote peace, founding the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation in 2003. She later worked with both the United Nations and Oxfam to promote these ideals. She would also serve as the Chef de Mission for the refugee team at the 2016 and 2020 Olympics.
The shoes on her feet during that day in Berlin were the same model of Nike Air Streaks she had used the year before. We have a clear picture of her in the runners, the overlays on the upper unmistakable in neon yellow. The picture helped with the previous entry, as oddly there were no clear photos of Loroupe from the 1998 Rotterdam Marathon. You can read more about that here.