Beginning in 1992 in Newcastle, England, the IAAF staged a World Half Marathon or Road Racing Championship every year for 19 straight years. By 2002 60 nations and over 200 athletes came to Brussels to compete in the 11th edition. From that point forward, however, the event began to witness a diminished interest in the number of nations and competitors taking part. The major cause for this loss seemed to be the continuing and utter domination by athletes from Kenya and Ethiopia. By 2010 just 30 countries and 123 athletes participated in Nanning, China.
In the shadow of the 2010 event, the IAAF converted the Half Marathon Championship to a biennial schedule, meaning there was no 2011 championships at all. A similar circumstance has also taken place with the IAAF World Cross Country Championships for similar reasons.
The only conclusion to draw from this scheduling is that the importance the IAAF placed on the World Half Marathon Championship (and World Cross) has diminished, and it/they are being pushed away. For further proof we need only look to Kavarna, Bulgaria, this year’s host city. Though founded in the 5th century along the Black Sea coast by Greek colonists, it’s not quite the most alluring venue one might consider for a world championship.
With road running at the people’s level being reduced to slowly moving block parties, and the top-end talent from East Africa continuing to pull farther and and farther away in front, we have seen the geometric shape of road racing change from a huge wedge to separated and distinct clusters.
On July 3rd I published a story OLYMPIC PETITION – ROAD RACING which argued for the inclusion of team medals in the Olympic Marathons, and the introduction of an Olympic Ekiden Road Relay for the purpose of elevating road racing to the status of an Olympic sport. I also instituted a petition drive on-line to generate interest in the proposition.
Now, the same week USATF announced the teams which will represent the USA at the October 6th IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Bulgaria, the IAAF Athletes’ Commission has sent out the following survey to athletes around the world. Continue reading →
As 2011 comes to a desultory close, with the race of 2012 shaping up to be the one for the White House in Washington rather than the podium in London, the IAAF’s annual ‘End of the Season’ marathon review by A. Lennart Julin (SWE) and Mirko Jalava (FIN) left the two statisticians with their mouths agape, writing…“what really made 2011 a year that will be considered of historical significance in the sport of marathon running was that it changed our perception of what is really possible. The best illustration is probably the fact that there were new course records set in all the five races making up the “World Marathon Majors.”
DISTANCE RACING HAS HIT THE WALL made a similar case back in November, but more than simply challenging our perceptions of WHAT was really possible, 2011 showed us unequivocally WHO it was possible by.
There were 182 sub-2:10 marathon performances world-wide in 2011, including those on downhill, point-to-point courses like Boston, which, despite its history and renown, is often left off the statistical lists by the Stat-Nazis in the name of purity over common sense. Of that 182, athletes from Kenya ran 110 (61%) led by Geoffrey Mutai’s 2:03:02 Boston masterpiece and Patrick Makau’s “official” world record 2:03:38 in Berlin. For the rest of the world – including the mighty Ethiopians with 42 sub-2:10s (22%) - 2011 was the year of nolo contendere. The U.S. was once again led by Ryan Hall (2) and Meb Keflezighi (1) with three sub-2:10s.
As the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials nears in Houston, Texas January 14th, a look back at where the sport was four years earlier gives us a sobering indication of why the sport of distance running has been transformed into an intra-mural battle among Kenyan camps rather than a world-class competition amongst evenly matched nations. The tilt has become so severe, that the average jogger/runner has lost all contact with the exploits of their sport’s fastest purveyors as the running industry in the U.S. has settled on participation numbers, economic impact, and charitable contributions as their standards of excellence, speed be damned. Continue reading →
I’ve never met you, but I have always been a fan. The excitement generated by your come-from-behind racing has lifted more than one arena to its collective feet, none more so than at the 2008 Olympic Trials 800-meter final in Eugene, Oregon. Just this week, however, you entered another arena, politics, by creating a Facebook page called I’m tired of USATF and IAAF crippling our sport. And as I’m sure you’ll find out soon enough, this may be an even harder track to succeed on than the Mondo version you’ve zoomed to four national 800-meter titles atop.
You know you’ve struck a nerve when, in just two days, your Symmond’s summons has attracted nearly 5000 on-line friends as you outlined your main bone of contention: “Could someone please explain to me why NASCAR drivers can have literally DOZENS of ads on their competition uniforms, cars, etc and track and field athletes are FORBIDDEN to have ANY corporate logo on their warm-ups or competition uniforms? Track and field athletes are not even allowed to put corporate logos on the arms as temporary tattoos. These asinine rules have been created by our governing bodies USATF and IAAF and are crippling our sport by preventing the flow of dollars into it.”
Nick, there are literally thousands who share your frustration and concern. And there have been many attempts over the years to lift track and running into the public consciousness. All have failed. One reason, one you seemed to have overlooked, is that what you refer to as “these asinine rules created by our governing bodies” aren’t crippling THEIR sport, only yours. And that’s the point. Continue reading →
Track and field is a sport of extremes, taking the most basic athletic abilities of running, jumping, and throwing, and distilling them into the Olympic motto: Citius, Altius, Fortius. For centuries the world has been intrigued by the demands and outcome of these quests. However, since Mexico City 1968, when the newly post-colonial nations of the world began competing internationally, the outer limits of speed in both sprinting and distance running have settled into predictable patterns. Four decades later we are seeing the full results of that predictability as the sport of track and field continues to wither on the vine.
After watching the first round of Samsung Diamond League finals from Zurich yesterday, I did a quick workup of the fastest times in the world in 2011for 5000m, 10,000m, half-marathon, and marathon gathered from the IAAF site. As always, the numbers reveal an unambiguous, but intriguing story. Continue reading →
Thus have Prince William & Catherine been joined in Holy Matrimony in London’s Westminster Abbey with the eyes of England and the world upon them. And as with each of these generational royal weddings – 1947 Elizabeth and Philip, 1981 Charles and Diana – the good and worthy media has informed us that the throngs lining the processional route from the Abbey to Buckingham Palace swelled to, verily, one million strong to witness the drenched opulence of it all.
Indeed, such bold estimates echo those made during our very own major marathons as they stretch and wind through the 26.2 miles of our lordly cities. But how faithful are such estimates, truly? Let’s do the math. Continue reading →