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. (more…)