2001 – Catherine Ndereba

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30-Oct-2001 – Chicago Marathon – 2:18:47 – Nike Air Streak Ekiden IV
Date of birth: 21-Jul-1972
Nationality: Kenyan
World Record duration: 1 year, 6 days

The athlete:                
Catherine Ndereba is easily one of the most accomplished athletes featured on this website. Starting in 1994 she showed immediate potential, but after failing to make the Kenyan cross country team she turned her attention to the marathon, making her marathon debut at the 1998 Boston Marathon, finishing 6th and under 2:30. She would follow this up with 2nd at the New York City Marathon later that year. Ndereba would claim victory in both events in 2000, and started 2001 in imperious form by winning the Boston Marathon again.

The 2001 Chicago Marathon was set amidst freezing conditions, and in the first five kilometres Ndereba was far below the pace needed to win let alone set the new world record. After becoming aware of the deficit, she accelerated to a pace of 3:18 minutes per kilometre. At the 11th mile she put herself ten seconds into the lead and four miles later had built that into one minute.

The second half of her race was completed several minutes faster than the first. Such was her speed that she needed two hands to pick up the water bottles at the drink stations along the way. By the 27th kilometre she was ahead of the world record set by Naoko Takahashi only one week prior. When Ndereba crossed the line, she burst into tears, barely able to believe that she had become the first woman to break the 2:19 barrier.

She later said she had been driven by her snub by the Kenyan federation who did not select her to participate in the 2000 Olympics. Ndereba would go on to become one of the most decorated distance runners in the history of the sport by the time she retired in 2014. She would win the Boston Marathon five times, win the World Championships in 2003 and 2007 and take two silver medals at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics.

Her performance at both Olympic marathons was incredible. In the 2004 event, Ndereba said she was pacing herself given she was injured two months prior. Her focus was on getting an Olympic medal. Ndereba has even hoped to compete at the 2012 Olympics but didn’t quite make the cut. For the record, her marathon world record time still counts as the 16th fastest ever set. Ndereba very much earned the nickname Queen Catherine.

The shoes:                   

It took some digging to identify the shoes that took her to the world record. The clearest photo we have is from the 2003 World Athletics Championships where Ndereba won the marathon. I need to thank Jason Mayeroff, who set his own personal best of 2:18:27 at the 2002 Berlin Marathon wearing the same shoes, the forum NikeTalk, and most of all Instagram user Trydar for finally helping identify them.

Mayeroff still owns his pair in the white colourway Ndereba used to win the marathon at the 2007 World Athletics Championships, and NikeTalk later pointed out another pair on eBay in the same unmistakable colourway Ndereba wore to set the world record.

Another forum, LetsRun, also helped with narrowing down the specific model of Air Streak. Although I’m still not completely certain, there were many contemporaneous posts referring to the model worn by Ndereba being the Air Streak Ekiden. Finally, Trydar went through his impressive collection of Eastbay catalogues to find the model in question, confirming it was the Air Streak Ekiden IV.

They featured a Zoom Air unit in the heel, and came in at only 184 grams. Unfortunately they are also very rare, and Nike have not brought them back since their first release.