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banner Thursday, 12 April, 2001, 11:39 GMT 12:39 UK
New shoes, new you
Running shoe sales go through the roof come marathon time
The longest journey starts with a new pair of shoes
BBC Sport Online's Matt Slater discovers that there is nothing like a London Marathon to help shift a few boxes of running shoes and sweatbands.

While nobody enjoys the winter training needed to run the London Marathon, you have to admit that there is a certain logic to holding it in April.

After all, when are we most susceptible to the siren song of 'I wonder if I could run 26 miles'?

Straight after we have spent a week gorging ourselves on the agricultural output of some small countries.

The extra sales we get prior to the marathon tend to come from people who are trying it for the first time - many of them may never try it again
  Basil Piotrowski
Runners Need
Just when we feel too stuffed to leave the sofa, that femme fatale of the foolhardy, the New Year's Resolution, shows up and purrs 'How about the London Marathon?'.

So you have hit rock bottom, pledged to repent and signed up for the marathon. What is your next move?

Well, for most of us, it is a drive to the nearest sports shop for running shoes, shorts, vests, drinking bottles and any other running paraphernalia that will help us feel not quite so unfit.

Lou Marchant, at running specialists London City Runner, has seen it a thousand times.

"It is definitely the busiest time of the year for us. As soon as they get their entry forms, it goes absolutely mad," she said.

"Christmas is quiet for us, but after New Year it is just like January sales every day."

Basil Piotrowski, at the shop and mail order business Runners Need, agrees with Marchant's experience of the post-Christmas rush.

2000 winner Antonio Pinto
Get the shoes, buy the vest, the rest is easy
"We are a specialist store so we get steady custom throughout the year, but we do see an increase in sales between January and April," he said.

"The extra sales we get prior to the London Marathon tend to come from people who are trying it for the first time - and many of them may never try it again!"

And although every marathon veteran will tell you not to attempt 26.2 miles in new shoes, it appears many of you have not listened.

"As the race gets closer we start to sell more clothing than shoes, but we still get some people buying new shoes right up to the last week," said Marchant.

"I think some people try to make an old pair of shoes last through their training and the marathon.

"But then the shoes start to fall apart. You can see people opening new boxes on the race day itself."

So now we know we are all at it, what are we buying?

Nike doesn't do so well with shoes but it cleans up with clothing
  Lou Marchant
London City Runner
According to Piotrowski, Asics has been out in front as the best selling shoes brand for the last few years, but a number of rivals are appearing at its shoulder.

The runners' favourites Saucony and Brooks are re-emerging as popular choices, and Mizuno and New Balance are breathing hard down Nike's neck for second position.

The American sportswear giant might not be having it all its own way in the shoes foot-race, but when it comes to marathon clothing it is out on its own.

"Nike doesn't do so well with shoes - most runners see it as more of a casual shoe - but it cleans up with clothing. Nobody else comes close," said Marchant.

But what of Adidas, the event's sponsor? Shouldn't we all be clad in the brand with the famous three stripes?

It's all about reinforcing the brand's credibilty in technical apparell and footwear
  Chris Wheatley, Adidas
"I don't think sponsoring the event makes any difference," said Marchant, but Chris Wheatley, Adidas' running marketing manager, disagrees.

"It's a profile-building thing as much as anything else," he said. "It's not a selling more shoes exercise."

"If you wanted to do that you'd do it on the high street in retailers like JJB Sports.

"It's all about reinforcing the brand's credibilty in technical apparell and footwear. That's the main reason we sponsor the Marathon."

Liquid Power, the marathon's official energy drink, has also witnessed a sugary spike in its sales since Christmas, according to both Marchant and Piotrowski.

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