Monday, 7 November 2011

History stands...but should we change how history is made?

By now, most of us have heard about the IAAF ruling which essentially states that if women race using male pacers, their times will not be eligible for world records. This means that Paula Radcliffe's world record performance of 2:15:25 in 2003 is now relegated to a "world's best" time.

I completely agree that History Stands and would happily spend days arguing about the countless ways this ruling is absolutely unfair to women. But for me this debate (and a great article recently published in the WSJ) actually brings up another big question:

Why are elite runners allowed to use pacers in the first place?

For the most part, I'm still very much a beginner when it comes to running. That's why I think it's okay for me to follow the guys with the giant "sub-2:00" balloons tied to their heads when I run half marathons. Learning to pace myself is one of the challenges of becoming a runner, and sometimes I need a little help!

But elites? They are the best of the best. Shouldn't they be able to pace themselves....and in fact, isn't that part of the challenge for them when they're racing? And shouldn't they be racing against their competitors rather than just following a pacemaker for the majority of a race?

Using a hired pacer feels a little bit like cheating to me. If you are capable of running at a record pace, you should be hitting that pace on your own. The recent performances of Geoffrey Mutai in Boston and yesterday in New York--the two marathon majors WITHOUT PACERS--proves that elite runners don't need pacers to run at record paces.

History stands...but going forward I think we should change how history is made. The question isn't whether women should be allowed to use male pacers. It's whether any runner should be allowed to uses pacers at all. I think that the other marathon majors (and athletics events!) should follow the example set by New York and Boston and banish the use of pacemakers, so that running is more about race strategy and winning, rather than breaking world records.

What do you think?

1 comment:

  1. Hear hear!! What a load of crock - the rulings, not your blog! I agree with all of your above protests. If a male/female runner is good enough to be classed as 'elite' they surely gained that status under their own merits, not the merit of a pacemaker. If this is the case, why all of a sudden do they NEED a pacemaker to carry on achieving??

    PS - As a fairly new runner like yourself I pace myself by focusing on a person in front and once I'm past them I focus on the next person and so on. It works for me and I bet similar strategies worked for those 'elite' runners as well in their early days.