2012 – Tiki Gelana

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5-Aug-2012 – London Olympics – 2:23:07 – Nike Zoom Streak 3
Date of birth: 22-Oct-1987
Nationality: Ethiopian
Olympic Record duration: 11 years, 5 months, 27 days (as of 1 February 2024)

The athlete:                
Tiki Gelana had shown early promise when she had switched to marathons in 2009, having already performed strongly in the half-marathons she had entered previously. Debuting on the podium at the 2009 Dublin Marathon, she staked her claim early. It was 2011 where she really began to make literal and figurative strides by winning the 2011 Amsterdam Marathon in 2:22:08, eight minutes faster than her previous best.

In the months leading up to the 2012 Olympics, Gelana entered the Rotterdam Marathon, proceeding to demolish her competition and crossing the line in 2:18:58. This made her, at the time, the fourth fastest woman to have ever run the marathon. It secured her place at the Olympics, which would be held in wet weather along the streets of London.

Her run almost ended in disaster when she collided with a competitor past the halfway point and fell to the ground. She got back up, and was unbelievably bumped into again. Quickly regaining her form, Gelana found even more pace in the second half, finishing over three minutes quicker than the first half of the race.

She said afterwards that she had no issues maintaining her pace as the wet weather suited her perfectly, having often run in such conditions as a child. Not only did Gelana win the gold medal, but she also set the new Olympic record, taking on the mantle from Naoko Takahashi whose performance from 2000 had been the previous benchmark. Unfortunately Gelana would not recapture the form that had secured her place at the Olympics. She was involved in a collision with a wheelchair racer during the 2013 London Marathon. Injuries began marring her later performances, and I have been unable to find evidence of her racing beyond 2017.

Gelana’s Olympic Record still stands unbeaten after the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, held in 2021 due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Conditions were even hotter than the men’s event the next day, with temperatures and humidity levels far beyond ideal running conditions. The current world record holder, Brigid Kosgei, could do no better than 2:27:36 even in the Nike Zoom VaporFly Next% 2, when her personal best is 2:14:04. Winner Peres Jepchirchir finished in 2:27:20, wearing the Adidas Adizero Adios Pro 2, when her personal best is 2:17:16.

The next opportunity for someone to run even faster will be at the 2024 Paris Olympics, where the women’s marathon will be held on 11 August. Temperatures should be as low as 14 degrees Celsius, however humidity may be high. The course has now been revealed, with the spectacular route taking runners from Paris to Versailles and all the way back.

Of particular note is the challenging nature of the course, with an overall ascent of 438 metres combined with an overall descent of 436 metres. Although far from impossible, it will be particularly challenging to best Gelana’s time which was set on the much flatter course of the London Olympics.

The shoes:                   

As Gelana was on the biggest sporting stage in the world, finding pictures of the race was pretty easy. The very bold Nikes she wore, complete with red and black stripes, were the Zoom Streak 3. Weighing in at 190 grams, they were equipped with Zoom Air at the rear, with foam that Nike calls Cushlon LT throughout the midsole.

Giving some stability is the TPU shank in the midfoot, with the upper using one piece of mesh for maximum breathability which on release was particularly innovative. Probably the biggest compliment this model can get is that although it was first introduced in 2009, elite runners were still favouring it as late as 2015 despite updated models being available. Finding examples of the shoe should be relatively easy given it was released recently, but no guarantees on their condition.


Want To See A Faster Olympic Marathon? Move It To The Winter Games