2007 – Haile Gebrselassie

Source: Unknown (please contact me if this is your photo)

30-Sep-2007 – Berlin Marathon – 2:04:26 – Adidas AdiZero CS
Date of birth: 18-Apr-1973
Nationality: Ethiopian
World Record Duration: 11 months, 29 days

The athlete:                
To give you an understanding of the athletic prowess of Haile Gebrselassie, you have to go back to his first marathon. At only 15 years of age, he had trained and travelled to Addis Ababa to run a 10 kilometre race. That was cancelled, and the only race left was the marathon. Even though he didn’t win, he still finished in 2:48. In the following years he would become one of the most dominant middle distance runners the sport has ever witnessed. He would win and set world records at distances ranging from 1500 metres up to 10,000 metres, where he would win gold at the 1996 and 2000 Olympics.

Decades later, Gebrselassie was facing cold, wet and windy weather the day before the 2007 Berlin Marathon. It would be his seventh marathon since debuting at the distance in 2002. He had finished third at that event, the London Marathon, in 2:06:35. It was one of the fastest ever times set over the distance and at the time the fastest ever debut. When he returned to the marathon in 2005, Gebrselassie proved he had lost none of his ability, winning the Amsterdam Marathon in dominant fashion.

To make sure he was prepared, he even switched to the Adidas racing flats he normally used for wet weather. Come race day however, conditions had improved, and Gebrselassie needed no invitation. After 30 kilometres his pacesetters dropped off, and by the 22nd mile Gebrselassie felt the record may be his for the taking. His only competition was the clock, and little over two hours after he started Gebrselassie won the Berlin Marathon for the second time and set a new marathon world record. It should be noted that Gebrselassie has exercise-induced asthma which he managed throughout his career.

Countryman and previous world record holder Paul Tergat called Gebrselassie to congratulate him shortly afterwards. Gebrselassie was magnanimous, apologising to Tergat and saying the record belonged to him. What makes this performance even more remarkable is that it was the 23rd world record that Gebrselassie had set in distances ranging from two miles up to the marathon. Olympic gold still eluded him at the marathon distance, however he had already claimed that honour in the 10,000m in both 1996 and 2000. However, Gebrselassie was not done with the marathon by any measure.

The shoes:                   

There was a blog post previously hosted on the Adidas website that claimed Gebrselassie wore the Adidas Adistar Competition to set the world record, the shoe originally releasing in 2003. Adidas has since taken down this pace, and advised Runner’s World in an article that this was an error. The Adistar Competition was a fascinating running shoe, featuring a full-length carbon-fibre plate called the Pro Plate. Reviews said the shoe provided a very smooth ride, different to the propulsive feeling of the Nike Zoom VaporFly. You can read more about the development of this shoe here.

The Adistar Competition has a very distinctive upper with diamond overlays on the three stripes. The pictures we have of Gebrselassie at the 2007 Berlin Marathon show that he was clearly wearing another model. He did however wear prototypes of the shoes at the 2001 IAAF World Half Marathon Championships, an event he won by only one second from countryman Tesfaye Jifar. It was only his second attempt at the distance, Gebrselassie having won on his debut as well.

When making his marathon debut the next year in 2002, he would be wearing the technologically more conventional but visually more extreme Adidas Concerto 2. Another rare entry in the Adidas back catalogue, it was an extremely lightweight shoe at around 180 grams. Even though Gebrselassie didn’t win, he still finished third in 2:06:35 which was the fastest ever marathon debut at the time. He was only beaten by Khalid Khannouchi, who set a world record in the process, and future world record holder Paul Tergat.

The shoes that Gebrselassie wore were the Adidas AdiZero CS, specifically the version which he had worn to victory at the 2006 Berlin Marathon. Adidas even published an advertisement proudly proclaiming his accomplishment and the shoes he wore. The design of the upper and midsole further identify the shoes, with the distinct overlays around the heel, which you can see in other images of his world record run. The same model can also be seen in promotional pictures from the 2007 London Marathon.

It was actually designed as a midpoint between traditional racing flats and more cushioned running shoes. Keep in mind it still had stack heights of 22/12 millimetres back and front. While not much, Gebrselassie reportedly found this ideal. Apparently he would wear one pair for two marathons before replacing them.

The AdiZero CS sported Adidas’ proprietary AdiPrene cushioning technology in the forefoot, along with the torsion system introduced decades earlier. That allowed both halves of the shoe to move independently. The ClimaCool mesh, another Adidas technology, helped reduce sweating. While there has been no retro of the AdiZero CS, good examples should still be out there given the age of the model. 

Seemingly out of nowhere, Adidas did however bring the Adistar Competition back from the vault and in several new colourways. Although it looks like the carbon-fibre Pro Plate made it back, apparently this was not the case and the 2017 release is only for casual use.