Which Shoe Brand Won the NYC Marathon?
We scored the race like an XC meet. Here are the results.One problem with pro running is that there’s no real team system to create legit rivalries and wild fan support. The major sports have figured this out—grown men wear Detroit Lions jerseys to Costco. Nobody’s slipping on a Hansons-Brooks singlet to hit up the Home Depot.
That could be in part because there is no league. Casual fans can’t throw their undying faith behind NAZ Elite and root for them to beat up on OAC during a showdown in the summer road racing season. Plus, there aren’t really any competitions where teams square off for bragging rights and team trophies—well, maybe USATF Cross Country Championships.
With XC in mind, let’s apply that kind of scoring to the NYC Marathon and manufacture some team drama.
In another article, I looked at the top 10 shoes from the marathon. But what happens when we go a bit deeper and look behind the pros? Which brand’s team is the best?Standing on the sidelines, I snapped photos of runners until the packs became too thick for me to capture everybody clearly. Then I sat with the results and matched runners to their shoes based on their bib numbers.
The elite fields were fairly small this year, so I left the pros in the scoring mix. Congrats, David Puleo from New York City, you were actually on Team Adidas with Tamirat Tola this year.
This is meant to be a fun look at shoes but, to be fair, there are many holes that can be poked into this scoring system. Nike and Adidas have bigger budgets and brought in more ringers. Likewise, because there were so many people wearing Nike, more were bound to make it to the finish line—Cam Levins (Asics) and Reed Fisher (Adidas) both dropped out but would certainly have scored well for their squads.
First, let’s take a look at the stunning number of Nikes that dotted the course. Here’s a count of the shoes among the top 250 runners. Nearly ⅔ of these runners had the swoosh.The ratio of Vaporfly and Alphafly to other shoe models got even more skewed as the times slowed. Of the final 35 runners I tagged, only 4 weren’t wearing Nike—1 Hoka, 1 Saucony, and 2 Adidas.SCORING
Now, on to the race results. Given the sheer number of Nike runners, it seemed inevitable that they’d win this meet in 2023. But, are other squads competitive? How close are they? And how strongly do the smaller brands compete on the streets?
A primer on XC scoring: In traditional cross-country, teams can have 7 runners, but only 5 actually figure into their own team’s score. But the 6th and 7th runners on a team can have a huge impact in the standings, because their place can affect their opponents’ scores. If they finish in front of another team’s 5th runner, that pushes the opponents’ score one point higher.
Let’s illustrate that with our top two teams.Not every brand in the race had enough runners across the line to yield a team score. This is only because I stopped keeping score when roughly 250 men had run by me at the 24-mile mark. They all certainly would have had five runners, in a field of 51,933 runners. But, by that time, the packs of runners became too thick for me to reliably capture bib numbers and shoes so that I could match them with their final standing later. I even peeped MarathonFoto for a few runners that I missed—some second-wavers ran really fast times!—but it was a painfully slow process and the images are too low res to accurately tell shoes apart unless they were garish neon colors that instantly gave away the brand. So I abandoned the exercise at 250 men.
(For this same reason, I was unable to score the women’s race. I made an attempt, but bib numbers were blocked too consistently to reasonably get enough data.)
Once I had the top finishers matched with their shoe brand (team), I omitted any who had finished outside their team’s top 7. In some XC races, you can run a big team, but runners 8 and up are yanked from the results for team scoring purposes.Interestingly, New Balance athletes ran in a tight pack, with the team’s 7th man finishing 31st. But they just didn’t have the pro-caliber runners needed at the front of the race to hang with the teams that made our podium.
MORE CHOICES, BUT ONE CLEAR LEADER
The takeaway from all this? There are many brands building great racing shoes right now, as evidenced by the parity in the top finishers of marathons. But, further back in the pack, Nike still dominates with competitive runners. That stands to reason, as they had a few years head start on everybody else in the super shoe race.
How will these standings look in a few years, after other brands have had more time for their innovations to proliferate? If it follows suit with the pro field, expect to see some of the also-rans make a strong challenge for the podium and team title.
posted Sunday November 12th
by Runner’s World