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.
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 !
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?