Now that Athletics Kenya has made its Sophie’s Choice for their 2012 Olympic Men’s Marathon team, it seems cruelly unfair that both history’s fastest marathoner, Geoffrey Mutai, and the official world record holder, Patrick Makau, will not be Olympians in London 2012. All of which makes one stop to consider how this wholly unsatisfactory outcome might eventually be corrected.
While competitions on the track are restricted by the availability of lanes, thereby making it necessary to limit competitors to a qualified three-per-nation, the marathon is contested over open road, negating the space restriction argument. Therefore, is it time for the IAAF to lobby for an open marathon format where, if not any qualified athlete can enter, then at least five runners per nation would be fielded with an accompanying team medal formulation added like in World Cross Country?
The New York Road Runners recently posted a Head-to-Head debate between ex-USA Today Olympic writer Dick Patrick and former New York Times Sports editor Neil Amdur on the value of staging a separate half-marathon in the Olympic Games. Neil gave the idea a qualified thumbs up, while Dick replied, “Not so fast, my friend.”
While I might suggest an Olympic Ekiden Relay as a better choice which would include more athletes and be purely team-based, nowhere in Dick and Neil’s back-and-forth was the idea of an Olympic Half Marathon or marathon team medals forwarded for the express purpose of elevating the distinct sport of Road Racing into the pantheon alongside Track & Field via the Olympic imprimatur. Yet as more and more hybrid sports continue to sprout up, more and more of them are finding space on the Olympic schedule, while the very historic and distinct sports of cross country and road racing remain locked out without even an advocacy coming from their governing body. (more…)