April 2010: Exhibit B: The City, Illustrated: Artifacts: Boston Marathon Sneakers: Stephanie Rineman
The City, Illustrated
When runners lace up and take to the pavement for the Boston Marathon on April 19, they’ll be marking a whopper of an anniversary: It’s been 2,500 years since a Greek messenger slogged 26 miles to Athens to report victory at the Battle of Marathon. Upon arriving, the runner exclaimed, "Nike!" (the Greek word for "victory"), then promptly died from exhaustion — and with, one imagines, awfully blistered feet.
Footwear has come a long way since then, as evidenced by the sneaker collection on display at the Boston Athletic Association’s Trinity Place offices. From the loaferlike styles of the 1920s to the souped-up offerings of today, each pair was built to go the distance: about 52,000 strides, all the way from Hopkinton to Boylston Street.
Captions, From Top
West Medford native Johnny Kelley completed the Boston Marathon a record 58 times, including two wins, and finally retired after the 1992 race. The Asics that the 84-year-old wore on that day were gilded. (His likeness was immortalized, too, as a statue at the base of Heartbreak Hill.)
THE BUCK STOPPED HERE
A dollar doesn’t go far these days, but with just 99 cents saved from his wages as a delivery boy, Nova Scotia’s Johnny Miles bought the canvas shoes he would wear to victory in 1926.
Germany’s Uta Pippig wore Nikes in her wins in 1994 and 1995 (the year she sported this custom pair, inscribed with "Air Uta"). Her victory in 1996 made her the first woman to win three consecutive Boston Marathons.
THE NEXT STEP
Just before race day this year, Adidas will release its Marathon 10 model in official Boston blue-and-gold. And who knows? One day a winning pair may end up in the BAA’s display cases, too.
For the 1951 race, Japanese runner (and Hiroshima survivor) Shigeki Tanaka donned mittenlike shoes that he believed would grip the road better than western ones. They apparently worked: He won.