“In medias res”, meaning “into the middle of things”, refers to works that open in the middle of the plot rather than with background or other exposition, which is brought in later through dialogue, flashbacks, or description. 

Famous examples of “in medias res” are Homer’s the Iliad and the Odyssey, Virgil’s Aeneid, Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and every Bond film ever made.

On March 10, the IAAF Council met in Doha, Qatar where it announced new Olympic entry standards for Tokyo 2020, and declared its intention to modify its annual Diamond League tour by, among other things, making the 3000-meters the longest track event on the schedule, also to begin in 2020.  Essentially, that would eliminate the 5000-meters altogether, a decision taken to lower the TV window for the 12 weekly Diamond League meetings from two hours down to 90 minutes. 

That decision, however, was also met with harsh criticism, especially from the twin distance running powerhouses of Kenya and Ethiopia for whom distance running is all but a national identity.

So let’s think about this a little more.

What if, that’s always a good question to begin with.

Athletes compete in the men’s 5000 meters run at the Shanghai Diamond League track and field competition in Shanghai, China, Saturday, May 12, 2018. (AP Photo)

What if, rather than eliminating one of the root and branch events of athletics altogether – recall that the 10,000-meters almost doesn’t exist at all anymore – we instead schedule the 5000-meters to open the Diamond League meets in medias res?

That’s right, begin each meeting with the 5000, but timed in such a way that when the TV show comes on-air there are only three or four laps remaining in the race, in medias res. 

Meaning all the viewers would see is the action end of the race without losing the event and its best practitioners. After all, the 3000-meters is primarily an indoor event. Plus, since distance racing on the DL tour is always paced, all you’d be eliminating is the unnecessary exposition, which, just like in its literary form, would be filled in by the announcers later. 

TV producers have been cutting out parts of the 5000 as it is anyway, by going to commercial break in the middle of the race. And we can be fairly certain they won’t show the full 3000 meters in 2020, either. 

It’s always, “We will be back for the conclusion of the 5000 right after this time out.”   

But by opening the meet in medias res, you would begin with a bang rather than waiting around for two or three minutes while the athletes shake out their legs and get introduced for the women’s 400-meter hurdles, traditionally the opening race on tour. 

Instead, there would be action right off the bat and the announcers would already be into the flow of the things. 

“Hi, everyone. Welcome to Monaco where the men’s 5000 meters has just four laps remaining. So and so is now in the lead after pacers split the opening kilometers in X, Y, and Z, etc.”

Very few people disagree with the overall need to shorten track meets and increase the pace of action. We are no longer in Kansas, Dorothy.  But amputation is the most drastic solution there is.

So let’s stop (in medias res, you might say) and think how we can best meet our future needs without losing the value and history that’s been handed down to us over time.

Please suggest other solutions that come to mind.



13 thoughts on “5000 METERS IN MEDIAS RES

  1. Thinking more about this I suspect the real reason behind the 3000 instead of the 5000 is not time constraints but to give European milers a chance in the 3000 that is kind of hopeless in the 5 these days for non African runners… of course Coe and company can’t say that… but that makes more sense than the silly reason given…

  2. ” None of the present world records in middle to long distance are “clean” anyhow….”

    That’s a pretty wild accusation….as if the 70s and 80s were a period of saintliness…

    The problem now is there is almost no money….Shaun Pickering recently stated there is no major tv deal and no sponsor for Diamond League….

    1. That was me again….I didn’t want to post anonymously…but I forget you have to sign in each time…

    2. Yes, anonymous, from about 1988 on through maybe 2004… most all of the world records in track and even the marathon fell “like leaves off trees”…. sometimes several times in the same season! That was the peak of EPO and HGH and other “designer” synthetic steroid usage…. before testing got a little better. Myself, I think EPO made the biggest difference with distance runner WR’s… but I could be wrong. And, I do not pretend that our time of the 70’s thru 80’s were cheat free… but it just got much more efficient and convenient for more people to do it by the late 80’s….there was blood loading and early steroids back then. As Marty Vainio showed us in his LA 1984 10,000 m. silver DQ. Why is that such a wild accusation? Tell me which middle to long distance record you think is legit? Even though things tightened up just a bit… along comes Sochi and the Russian state sponsored doping and I start to get discouraged again.

      1. Leave the Russians out of this…state sponsored doping is beyond anything else anyone else is possibly doing…horrible stuff.

        As for records…I have no idea but to do systematically dismiss all the WRs as drugged just because they are fast is rather silly…. why even follow the sport anymore….I’ve not naive…but the excitement of watching Geb run several times run live was extraordinary…especially the 1996 Zurich 5000 against Komen…what a race….

        Were they on something…who knows…Geb never tested positive…. I really don’t care….drug testing may not be foolproof, as we know, but it at least puts a limit on things….

        There are many reasons the East Africans are dominant but to dismiss it all as PEDs is ridiculous…

  3. I think what you are suggesting is a reasonable compromise, Toni. As someone who has done announcing on radio and TV… I think it is feasible technically. As you said, most of the big moves are made in the last 3 laps anyway (unless we have a resurrection of Lasse Viren out there!) …. but it will take at least a lap to “set the stage” for the viewer…. and that will still have to be quick.

    So, showing the final mile or so… about 5 minutes worth…might do the job…and answer some of the critics. And, also appease Ethiopia and Kenya… who feel a bit disenfranchised from the IAAF right now…with this recent news… on top of all the PED busts that are going on there right now. On the other hand… it has not done our sport any good to have the East Africans totally dominate so much of the events from 800 on up. But, that may not happens as much now with stricter PED controls in those countries.

    The real trouble is stems from shrinking the broadcast from 120 minutes to 90 minutes! Why did they do that? No other sport has such diverse participants….in so many events almost simultaneously! But, most all of them have a broadcast that is about 2 hours…. some sports are even longer. Why are we cutting the broadcast down in the first place? I just think that we have not refined and repackaged the broadcast well enough in recent years….to keep it interesting for the average viewer and economically acceptable for the TV exec’s. And, I have always thought that BBC and CBC and the euro broadcasters do a better job at it … than the American broadcast companies like NBC. Why the cut?

  4. Separate track from field. Create international teams aka the NBA. Discontinue national identity teams except for country & Olympics. Use graphics during race with animation robot running at world or course record pace, in contrast to contestants.

    1. Yes! The IAAF needs to try something new, exciting, and outside-the-box for a change. And to the international teams you suggest I would encourage the creation of fantasy leagues so fans can draft and create their own teams, just like many baseball and football fans do.

    2. The only thing I disagree with is the constant chase of a world record. If the world record is not broken it seems that fans walk away disappointed rather than appreciating a great race. I’m not sure why track has to continually measure itself against the all-time best. No other sport does this. Can you imagine if Steph Curry had a 70 point night and everyone was disappointed because he didn’t match the 100 points of Will Chamberlain? Let’s focus on the competitive nature of that event itself. Love the discussion though because something needs to be done. The sport is beginning to lose even me, an extremely long-time fan.

      1. That is a very good point, Kurt. Back in my time… which was a pretty good one for T & F… I saw a world record about once every 3-5 years… if that! Especially for distance events. The days of PED’s like EPO and steroids from the mid 80’s until about 2010 “spoiled” many spectators, fans, and TV viewers as well as TV exec’s. None of the present world records in middle to long distance are “clean” anyhow….so I doubt they would fall from a “clean” athlete today. It’s been a few years now… as a result of better testing… and “biological passport”…. that we’ve seen a WR… except in the marathon.

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