THERE are no purer sports than running.  

The beauty of watching an athlete run is they are doing the most simplistic of sports; one which requires almost no equipment, nor any facilities. 

Unlike disciplines such as track cycling, sailing, equestrian and the like, in which a small fortune is needed to put a team together, a running squad can be assembled in the most barren of surroundings. 

Only a handful of countries excel in sports in which the athletes must be adorned with the most expensive of equipment; running, on the other hand, requires almost nothing. 

It is this that makes athletics the most compelling of sports, and why it is the crown jewel in the Olympic crown; every nation, rich or poor, can, in theory, produce a good runner. 

However, things are changing. Running is losing its purity. 

For a sport that apparently needs nothing more than an old pair of trainers, technology is becoming hell of important. 

Earlier this month, two world records were broken, no, smashed, on a track in Valencia. 

Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei broke the men’s 10,000m record, shaving six seconds off the previous time, while Letesenbet Gidey from Ethiopia took four seconds off the women’s 5000m time earlier that same day. 

They were remarkable performances, but ones which drew comment for more than the margin of the pair’s victories. 

Cheptegei and Gidey are both Nike athletes, and the duo set their records while wearing the company’s new ZoomX Dragonfly spikes, which have been billed as the “fastest shoes ever”. 

And so the result of this is that much of the conversation is now focused on footwear rather than simply the brilliance of these world records. 

The focus on Nike’s new spikes, though, is fully justified.  

The ZoomX Dragonfly’s contain a carbon plate and a unique foam, with the  

design aiming to limit the amount of energy lost each time the foot makes contact with the ground. A number of studies have been conducted by Nike, as well as independent testers, to evaluate the shoe, with the results suggesting that performance can be improved by a staggering four percent or more, which is hugely significant when you get to this level of sport. 

It should be pointed out the athletes are competing entirely within the rules; Nike’s new spikes have been signed off by World Athletics as entirely legitimate, but that does little to quell the feeling of disappointment that some of these world records, which previously were down to nothing but human excellence, are now being somewhat manufactured. 

These spikes are in the same bracket as Nike’s Alphafly shoes, which are worn by a number of the world’s best road runners and have been used for a number of ground-breaking runs by the likes of Eliud Kipchoge, who became the first person ever to break the two-hour barrier for the marathon. 

There is a similar feeling from some to that which enveloped swimming at the time of Speedo’s full-body swim suit, which was worn in the breaking of almost 100 world records, and which was eventually banned due to what was deemed technical doping. 

It is, then, interesting to predict where the sport of athletics will go with these new spikes and trainers.  

There is no disputing these world-breaking runs could only be done by truly phenomenal athletes – there is no amount of technology that can aid someone to these kind of times if they are not already one of the world’s very best runners. 

But for me at least, the performances also are accompanied with a touch of despondency that athletics, which seemed the last sport to rely purely on human brilliance and nothing else, is being infiltrated by technology.  

However, times are changing, and these shoes look like they’re here to stay. Whatever one’s feelings about them, I think we should all get ready for a raft of new world records in the coming months and years, and it won’t all be down purely to the athletes. 


The announcement this week from UK Sport about the shift in its funding model was an interesting one. 

Previously, UK Sport based their funding on a four-year cycle to tie in with each Olympiad but now, funding will be over a 12-year-period in what the agency’s chief operating officer, Simon Morton, has called a new, “progressive approach”. 

Morton also revealed funding will not be based purely on medal potential, which is a move away from the approach announced back in 2004 whereby UK Sport revealed a “no compromise” approach in the pursuit of medals. 

This aim of winning medals at apparently all costs has turned out to be hugely damaging, with more and more stories of athlete welfare abuses emerging in recent years.  

So, the move away from short-term, all that matters is silverware, attitudes is a significant one. When all that counted was medals, it was easy to see how the welfare of individual athletes was not only pushed to one side but, in some cases, disregarded entirely. 

However, I remain to be convinced that sports which do not contribute to Team GB’s medal tally at future Olympics and Paralympics will continue to benefit from significant financial support, even if they tick other boxes when it comes to things like grassroots participation. 

This shift of focus is, though, what needs to happen if we are to become a healthy sporting nation. I wait with baited breath to see what changes happen over the coming years following this change to the funding model, and I hope my cynicism in this move away from counting medals is proven entirely wrong.