Do I need a pair of Nike Vaporflys – tempting, but not at that price!
PUBLISHED: 08:25 03 March 2020 | UPDATED: 08:25 03 March 2020
Athletics correspondent Carl Marston considers splashing the cash to buy a pair of the Nike Vaporfly trainers, in a bid to buck the trend of slower times
Is it time to bite the bullet and purchase a pair of Nike's Vaporfly trainers?
Everywhere I read, I find races being won, and records being smashed, by runners sporting a pair of the new technology shoes.
True, most of these guys, and girls, are international runners, but what if I was to splash out the cash and buy a pair of flashy Vaporflys? Perhaps the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% - sure to buck the trend of recording slower and slower times.
My best days (not that they were that great, in the first place) are long behind me. The advancing years, combined with a steady flow of injuries, have kept me on the sidelines (race-wise, at least) for more than a decade.
With the exception of the weekly parkrun (not a race, obviously), and the odd tentative training run along the rivers Lark or Linnet, in Bury St Edmunds, my running has stalled big-time since my last outing over the marathon distance in Aarhus, Denmark, in 2007.
I still remember that race well. It didn't stop raining throughout the full 26.2 miles, although I had taken the precaution of buying a cap to keep my head dry - alas, it was a cap sporting the name of FC Copenhagen, the arch rivals of AGF (Aarhus' local football team), which didn't go down well with some of the spectators!
Anyway, 13 years on and I am now hoping to up the mileage (not exactly difficult, seeing as though I rarely break into double figures in any given week) over the coming months, injuries-allowing.
And I need every bit of help I can get, which brings me to the subject of the Nike's Vaporfly range. Would it be worthwhile investing in a pair?
Well, the evidence is overwhelming, especially if you happen to be a sub-2:10 marathon runner, or a sub four-minute miler.
I am neither, of course, but the stats are pretty impressive:
In 2019, a total of 31 of the 36 top-three finishes in the major marathons wore Nike's Vaporfly shoes. More specifically, Kenyan Brigid Kosgei wore a pair of Vaporflys when she broke Paula Radcliffe's women's marathon record, in October of last year.
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And only last weekend, Ethiopia's Keneisa Bekele hacked 78 seconds off Mo Farah's previous course record at the Vitality Big Half in London (1:00:22). Bekele has been a Nike runner for years.
It is claimed that Vaporflys will improve an athlete's performance by 4%. Now, even wearing a pair of Vaporflys, I would still be unlikely to break 20 minutes at the weekly parkrun of my choice (the subject of my weekly Friday columns) over the 5K distance.
But, buoyed by the comparison of 'running on trampolines,' I could surely clip a few minutes off my projected marathon target by wearing the latest flavour-of-the-month specials from Nike.
I'm no longer in three-hour shape for the marathon, but by my calculation, 4% of three hours is just over seven minutes. That's quite a saving.
Likewise, any four-hour marathoner could be looking to slice more than nine-and-a-half minutes off his or her time.
And it would all be legal and above board. A month ago, World Athletics confirmed that it had no plans to ban the controversial Vaporfly range, though tighter regulations will be enforced, meaning that any new shoe technology, introduced after the end of April, can only be used in competition if it has been available on the open market for at least four months.
Furthermore, an immediate ban was put in place on any trainers with a sole thickness exceeding 40mm, and also any shoe that contained more than one 'rigid embedded plate or blade.'
To that end, the trainers (Alphafly) which Eliud Kipchoge wore when he became the first athlete to duck under two hours for the marathon are now banned.
But the Vaporflys are very much available, so should I buy a pair?
I don't have any problems with the moral argument - no level playing field with other shoe-wearers - but I do have one gripe.
Do I have a spare £200-plus to update my trainers? And would I willingly cough up a couple of hundred to still run slower times than I did a few years ago?
On second thoughts, I think I'll stick with my old, battered pair of non-Vaporflys.