Nike Alphafly marathon shoes cleared for competition; Eliud Kipchoge’s sub-2 shoes meet thickness standard

Nike Alphafly
Nike
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Nike will release a version of its scrutinized, record-breaking marathon Vaporfly shoes — the “Alphafly” — at the end of this month. It will meet new legal standards to be used in competition such as the Olympics, according to the apparel giant.

On Wednesday, Nike announced that a new version of the Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% will be made available to the public and legally eligible to wear in official races.

World Athletics said last week that there is an immediate indefinite moratorium on any shoe that is thicker than 40 millimeters or contains more than one rigid embedded plate (of any material). World Athletics also ruled that any shoe used in competition, starting April 30, must have been available for purchase by any athlete on the open retail market for four months.

When Eliud Kipchoge became the first person to run a marathon in under two hours on Oct. 12 — in a non-sanctioned event — he wore a prototype of the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT%, unusually tall shoes. That specific pair is slightly thicker than 40mm, but since it’s a larger shoe size than the 8.5 used to determine the 40mm standard, it would still be legal to use in competition, assuming it met availability standards, according to Nike.

On Oct. 13, fellow Kenyan Brigid Kosgei won the Chicago Marathon in 2:14:04, shattering the 16-year-old women’s world record by 81 seconds. She wore a different Vaporfly version that remains legal, according to Nike.

“Where World Athletics has reason to believe that a type of shoe or specific technology may not be compliant with the rules or the spirit of the rules, it may submit the shoe or technology for study and may prohibit the use of the shoe or technology while it is under examination,” a release read.

World Athletics will establish a group to guide future research into shoe technology. It previously had vaguer rules regulating shoes.

“Any type of shoe used must be reasonably available to all in the spirit of the universality of athletics,” the old rules read. “Shoes must not be constructed so as to give athletes any unfair assistance or advantage.”

Days after Kipchoge and Kosgei’s breakthroughs, World Athletics (then known as the IAAF) commissioned a group to review shoe technologies.

“It is clear that some forms of technology would provide an athlete with assistance that runs contrary to the values of the sport,” a statement read in October. “The challenge for the IAAF is to find the right balance in the technical rules between encouraging the development and use of new technologies in athletics and the preservation of the fundamental characteristics of the sport: accessibility, universality and fairness.”

Kipchoge, speaking three weeks after his sub-two-hour marathon, defended the shoes.

“I respect technology. I respect innovation,” he said. “The world is moving, and you can’t stop. We are moving with the world, and the world is changing. I expect the [World Athletics] committee will be respecting the change in the world, the innovation, the technology.”

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MORE: Eliud Kipchoge on his marathon bucket list, shoe technology debate

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly reported that Kipchoge’s shoes would be illegal for being greater than 40mm.

Valencia Marathon produces historic times in men’s, women’s races

2022 Valencia Marathon
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Kenyan Kelvin Kiptum and Ethiopian Amane Beriso won the Valencia Marathon and became the third-fastest man and woman in history, respectively.

Kiptum, a 23-year-old in his marathon debut, won the men’s race in 2 hours, 1 minute, 53 seconds. The only men to ever run faster over 26.2 miles are legends: Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge (2:01:09 world record, plus a 2:01:39) and Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele (2:01:41).

Kipchoge made his marathon debut at age 28, and Bekele at 31.

Beriso, a 31-year-old whose personal best was 2:20:48 from January 2016, stunned the women’s field Sunday by running 2:14:58. The only women to have run faster: Kenyans Brigid Kosgei (2:14:04) and Ruth Chepngetich (2:14:18).

Ethiopian Letesenbet Gidey finished second in 2:16:49, the fastest-ever time for a woman in her marathon debut. Gidey is the world record holder at 5000m and 10,000m.

Valencia is arguably the top annual marathon outside of the six World Marathon Majors. The next major marathon is Tokyo on March 5.

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Aleksander Aamodt Kilde wins Beaver Creek downhill

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BEAVER CREEK, Colo. — Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde won his second straight World Cup downhill race to start the season, despite feeling under the weather.

Although dealing with an illness all week in training, Kilde powered through the challenging Birds of Prey course Saturday in a time of 1 minute, 42.09 seconds. It was enough to hold off Marco Odermatt of Switzerland by 0.06 seconds. James Crawford of Canada was third to earn his second career World Cup podium finish.

Kilde also won the opening downhill last weekend in Lake Louise, Alberta.

“It’s been a tough week,” Kilde said after the race. “I caught the flu in Lake Louise after a very, very nice weekend. It really hit me hard. Then I got a couple of days to rest and take it easy. … I felt OK. Still feeling it a little bit in my system.”

The Beaver Creek crew members had the course in solid shape a day after a downhill race was canceled due to high wind and snowfall.

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Kilde reached speeds around 75 mph in picking up his eighth World Cup downhill victory. That tied him with Kjetil Jansrud for the third-most downhill wins in the World Cup discipline among Norwegian men. The total trails only Aksel Lund Svindal (14) and Lasse Kjus (10).

“I found a really, really good set-up with my equipment and also with my skiing,” Kilde explained. “I believe in myself. I trust in myself. I have a good game plan. When I stand on the start, I don’t dwell on anything. I know that this plan is what I do and when I do that it’s going to be fast.”

Odermatt has been on the podium in all four World Cup races this season as he tries to defend his overall World Cup title. The 25-year-old finished third in the opening downhill of the season last weekend. He’s also won a giant slalom race and a super-G.

Ryan Cochran-Siegle wound up in seventh place for the top American finish. He was ninth in the downhill in Lake Louise.

“It’s been solid,” Cochran-Siegle said of his strides in the discipline. “A couple of little things here and there that pushed me off that top three. You have to ski with a lot of intensity and ski without abandon, in a sense. Today was a good step.”

Switzerland’s Beat Feuz, who won the Olympic downhill gold medal at the Beijing Games last February, tied for ninth.

The Beaver Creek stop on the circuit comes to a close Sunday with a super-G race. Odermatt will be the favorite after holding off Kilde in the opening super-G last weekend.

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