“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.
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.