Sunday, 16 October 2011

IAAF Stigma Against Women's Marathon Runner's

Personal Ties

My entire life I have been exposed to the world of running. While my endeavours into the sport were never as successful as my siblings and parents, I still have a profound understanding of the dedication and hard work required to become an accomplished distance runner. I have always thought my parents to be a little crazy for getting so excited in their preparation to run a marathon. I do admire their marathon experience in running over 14 marathons at the international and national level. I asked them what main factors that help in training and running this gruelling 26.2 mile race. Their list could apply to more than just running the marathon. These can assist anyone to reach success in whatever they chose as their life achievement goal.

Here's their list:

  • Discipline

  • Focus

  • Perseverance

  • Dedication to the training plan

  • Patiently building up the mileage

The controversy at hand

As a new Twitter user I was bombarded by the many re-tweets that were occurring regarding Paul Radcliffe and a hashtag #HistoryStand.The track and field social media community was reacting in an up roar to a decision made by the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF).(Which is an organization that governs all track and field races and community decisions.) The IAAF recently decided women's marathon records could only be set by women running in “women only” races. This is another significant blow to women's marathon running. Historically, the IAAF has continually made decisions that negatively affect women wishing to compete in marathons. It was not until 1984 that the women's marathon first entered the Olympic Games.

Why were the rules changed after the record was set?

Paula Radcliffe is the fastest and most well known women's marathon runner in the world. She is an idol to both men and women long distance runners. She has had an impressive long career of consistently performing well.This was especially proven when she shocked the masses in 2003 with setting a new world record of 2:15.25 for the women's marathon. A feat that would be difficult for most men to run. However, in late August 2011 the IAAF arbitrarily made the decision to remove her world record because she had run that race with men. Their terminology was “mixed races” meaning races where there was no separate start times for men and women. Unfortunately, almost every major marathon in the world is classified under “mixed races.” This downgrades the world record to 2:17.42 also done by Radcliffe in 2005.

Canadian State of Mind

Silvia Ruegger family friend and first Canadian Olympic marathon representative still holds the Canadian women's marathon record. Her record is also classified under a “mixed races.” She was recently interviewed by the Toronto Star regarding the removal of her long-standing record stating:

I ran 26.2 miles in 2:28 and I hurt doing it. And I didn't do it because I was 'helped' by anyone.” Ruegger also stated, They (IAAF) will do like they will do, just like they kept women out of participating for how many years. Now they're trying to discredit the performance again. They did it for years before they opened the door and let us run. Now, they can't even leave that open. They have to try and discredit the effort and say it was assisted.”

You would think these men... I mean federation...would realize marathons are hard enough without their unnecessary involvement.

It's difficult to not assume that removing past women's records was a biased decision when the IAAF board is primarily made of men in all areas of management. With that said the IAAF's official reasoning for removing the world record was that they felt it was unfair that these women were able to be paced by men. They also further stated that Radcliffe and other female runners (who have came close to her record) wouldn't be able to achieve times without being accompanied by men helping them keep pacing times. This not only appears negative for obvious gender biases but it's worse because men's records will remain untouched. It's a well known fact that male runners use “rabbits” (which are pacers) to set world records. Even this past weekend, the Scotia Bank Toronto Marathon had a pacer to assist Reid Coolaset to attempt to break Jerome Drayton's Canadian Record.


I would like to clarify that the injustice in this situation is not the changing of world record in marathons. It is that they are removing an accomplishment that was fairly earned eight years past. It's impressive that Radcliffe's main sponsor Nike has launched a social media campaign to support their internationally loved athlete. Nike has been using the slogan, “ You can change the rules but you can't change history.”

Show Your Support

On October 12 Radcliffe brought the many tweets posted on her Twitter account as proof of the injustice that thousands felt when hearing of the removal of her world record. Hopefully, Nike and Radcliffe's social media campaign can make a difference for all women marathon runner's records. Please follow @paulajradcliffe to show your support for #historystands.

I will leave you with a quote from John Craig director of Athletics Ontario:

To me, the sex of the pacesetter is irrelevant. It just doesn't make any sense to me. It's not a male or female thing. It's a pacesetter thing. You either allow pacesetters or you don't”

Would you let history stand?

1 comment:

  1. I was personally upset when I saw the change in the IAAF rule for the Women's Marathon Record. I was a Canadian Women's Marathon Record holder from 1978 to 1980. I would have been very disillusioned if my record that I ran in the Ottawa Marathon in May, 1978 (a mixed race) would not have counted as breaking the Canadian Record by 8 minutes!!! Whether or not I had pacers does not discount that I ran every step! I made a huge dip in the marathon record and HISTORY SHOULD STAND!!!