April 17,2021 — A while back, I read an article about the new Japanese National Stadium, the site of 2020 (+1) Tokyo Olympic Games; that there would be a lot of national records expected to be broken because of the new technology employed underneath the track surface. Apparently, there are small “ribs” underneath the rubber against the concrete with a special angle so you will get extra “bounce” upward AND forward. This should give you extra stride length. A similar things was talked about for the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. The new stadium (which unfortunately was since taken down) had special smooth and extra hard surface. It was supposed to be good for sprinting events. Lo and behold, men’s 100m (by Donovan Bailey) and 200m (by Michael Johnson) world records were broken as well as men’s 400m Olympic record (also Michael Johnson). While men’s 10,000m Olympic record was also broken by Ethiopia’s Haile Gebrselassie, he said afterwards that he didn’t like the track — it was like running on the road with no-protection track spike shoes. He had beaten up his feet too much and he withdrew from 5,000m competition. But this time, the technology has truly advanced; many athletes should be able to expect to PR without beating up their feet.
The advancement of “technologies” had been quite fascinating in the past decade or so. Of course, the first rubberized track was introduced for 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games. Coupled with rarified air resistance of high altitude, many records were broken. Most notably men’s 100m — the first official sub-10 seconds — and men’s long jump — known as “the leap of the next century”, Bob Beamon’s 8m90. Men’s 200m and 400m, as well as women’s 100m and 200m world records were broken in Mexico City. Lack of oxygen at high altitude didn’t help distance runners; but from then on, the rubberized track surface did. At sea level, experts agree that the athletes would gain at least 1-second-per-lap; that they can expect to run 1-second-a-lap faster.
Lydiard used the Australian hurdler, Pam Kilborn (Ryun) as an example in his “Run — the Lydiard way”. She was known as a stylist; a very proficient and effective hurdler who never hit the hurdle. The first time she ran on the rubberized track in 1972, she ran straight into the first hurdle!! In hurdle events, the distance between hurdles are set so you cannot increase your stride length. The only way you can run faster is to increase the stride frequency. The rubberized track increased her stride length without her trying. “I never expected the track to make you run so much faster!” she later told Arthur. As a proficient hurdler as she was, she quickly adjusted her stride and shortly after this incidence, she set the world 100m hurdle record.
There’s NO doubt technologies help you perform better. Many pro-technology people would point out the introduction of glass-fiber pole for pole vault. It is actually safer; and the performance improved dramatically and the event had become more interesting and exciting. No doubt!! But I actually feel too much of good things may not always end up good. Some of you may have sensed that I’m avoiding the topic of “footwear”…. Actually, I am!! Not here at least. I need to do some more research before I comment. There are good shoes and there are bad shoes and there are better shoes. What makes good shoes better than others? Simply put, Lydiard always said good shoes mean the shoe that allow your feet to function naturally. Then what if the shoes actually add so much to the actual function??? Are we crossing the line? Is there a line? I guess I’ll share my thoughts on that later… — Nobby Hashizume