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. 

Dear Athlete,

On behalf of the IAAF Athletes’ Commission, we are looking for your feedback and preferences on the following options please.

Should the half marathon distance be added to the summer IAAF World Championships? This would mean that the separate World Half Marathon Championships would be abolished and that the Half Marathon race would take place on the same day as the marathon to minimize road closures.


Yes, I’m in favor of this idea.  


 No, they should remain separate.     



We look forward to your feedback and comments !


Many thanks.

100 Years of Athletics Excellence


IAAF Athletes’ Commission

Road Running Working Group

While I still like the idea of marathon team medals, the inclusion of a half-marathon on the World Championships schedule would be the first step toward bringing the event into the Olympics, as well.  What’s more, depending on how the events might be scheduled, the whole idea of a Distance Double might offer new opportunities, to boot. Rather than the just-completed 5000-10,000 double pulled off by England’s Mo Farah in London, we could see a 10,000-Half Marathon, or Half Marathon – Marathon double.

Scheduling would be the key.  Thus, rather than begin the Games with the women’s marathon, as the current schedule does, begin with the Half Marathons on day one.  Then close the competition schedule on the final two days with the women’s and men’s marathons.  That way you could run both half-marathons on a single day, and have the athletes recovered enough for either the track or the marathon in week two.

However, this idea of the IAAF’s to schedule the half-marathons on the same day as the marathons simply to reduce road closures seems like an idea born of convenience rather than sport.  Having the Half Marathon and Marathon events on the same day would only dilute the attention each event would receive on separate days.

Besides, if the IAAF touts their World Athletics Championships as the third largest sporting event in the world behind the Olympics and World Cup (football/soccer), then there is no way they don’t have the juice to close city streets for 200 or so athletes for no more than three hours.

But overall,  it’s a grand idea, and might make one believe that the IAAF actually cares something about road racing, afterall.  What do you think?



  1. I bought my first color TV to watch the Olympics, probably in 1972. I’ve been disappointed with American coverage of track and road racing ever since. In fact I haven’t had a TV in 20 years. NBC can barely cover a 1500 without a commercial break. Whoever has the TV contract will lobby against adding any long run. For true running fans, adding a half-marathon would be a great idea. I’d like teams in the road racing as well. The only problem with Reavis’ ideas are that they are too good. The IOC and IAAF exist for their own sakes, not the athletes or their fans.

    Jeff Arnold

  2. Great idea to include the half marathon in with the main program! Would raise the profile of the event and surely a better experience for the athletes involved!

  3. Thanx for the comment, Barefoot.

    In response let me suggest that adding a half marathon to the WC and Olympic schedule would not dilute anything… We all know men and women who are fine 10,000m track runners who do not have the speed to contend in the final lap, but who, at the same time, move beyond their comfort zone when it comes to the marathon…

    Classic examples of this type are Americans Mark Curp, Jon Sinclair and Herb Lindsay from back in the day…Anne Audain of New Zealand readily comes to mind during that same time frame…And there was no finer road racer ever than Kenya’s Joseph Kimani, who still holds numerous major U.S. road race records from the mid-90s…But Kimani never qualified for the Kenyan Olympic track team, nor did he stay healthy enough to transfer his talents to the marathon distance.

    These are people for whom the half-marathon distance was their prime distance…But with no nod to road racing by the IAAF or IOC, that breed of runner was never given the chance to shine on the biggest stage in our sport…That denial hurt not just those individuals, but it reduced the sport of road racing in the public eye to the point where it is now seen as little more than a fitness activity rather than the compelling sport that it is.

    As I said in my original article on the topic, “if there is a distinction between 100 and 200 meters, 400 and 800 meters, 5000 and 10,000 meters, then there surely is a difference between 10,000 meters and 42,195m…It is long past time for the sport of road racing to be allowed its seat at the Olympic “adult” table, a seat it has earned truly and righteously.

  4. I’m not in favour of a Half Marathon at the Olympics or World Championships. The Olympics should be about all the best runners racing each other. Why dilute the competition?
    I think that Team Medals in the Marathon would be a good thing.
    The IAAF does need to do more to promote World Cross Country and to a lesser extent World Half. Road racing’s popularity as a whole is on rise even if the championship is diminishing. Cross Country is dying right across the world and needs to be saved because it is such a great event. The only place that cross country is thriving is in Kenya and in the US Collegiate system (USATF needs to bring back a December US National Championships).

    1. While the Fall US Cross Championship has been called the Club Championship, it is in fact one of two USA Cross Country Championships and by no means limited to cubs. And, the Winter Nationals also scores clubs (it’s not just an individual race).

      The winter event was for many years simply the World Cross Trials race. Back 10+ years ago, the thought was that the winter race being a “national” would be more marketable and draw more participants. So there is a Fall National and a Winter National.

      Post-collegiate cross is quite active in some areas of the country (northeast, and from Pacific Northwest down through San Francisco/Pacific USATF. If it’s not in your area, then get it rolling and help build it

  5. The half marathon is long overdue its inclusion in the World Championships and Olympic Game. Personally i would go further and seek for the inclusion of a full road programme, ie 5k, 10k and even an ultra distance event. Maybe that is just a little to much to ask. It is quite clear to me that not all Athletes are the same, some may be able to make the transition from track to roads but that is not always the case.

  6. Be careful what you wish for. The IOC has capped the number of athletes the IAAF can bring to the Olympics. For every half-marathoner and/or team marathoner you add to the mix you need to remove an entry from another event. Or remove a whole event. How do you plan to make that fly?

  7. Parker,

    Don’t think IAAF (or I) was thinking all four events on the same day. Question is: how to best schedule the track and road events given the recovery time-frame of the athletes and the available schedule of the whole meet? That’s why I suggested beginning with the two halves on an early day. That would open the possibility of a distance double for late in the second week.

  8. I doubt all four races would be on the same day; both marathons aren’t run on the same days now. More likely we’d see the women’s marathon and men’s half on one day, and the men’s marathon and women’s half on another, probably on the Sundays (2nd or 3rd day of competition, depending on the schedule, and final day).

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