Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Getting Ultramarathons into the Olympics (BBC Sport)

It's a long road for any sport to be considered an Olympic event, and especially long for the ultramarathon. But thanks to the hard work of folks like Great Britain coach Norman Wilson, there is still a fighting chance.

(Ultrarunning in the Olympics may not be a blue sky hope for long)

Wilson submitted a proposal this week to stage four ultra running demonstration events (a 100km, a 24-hour race, and two mountain running competitions) in 2009 for the Commonwealth Federation with the hopes of targeting the 2014 Commonwealth games. With the support of 15 countries, perhaps it can be the catalyst to achieve this as well as Norman's long shot goal - the Olympics. In this article, Great Britain coach Norman Wilson talks about his struggle to get ultrarunning recognized at this level, as well as how he sifts through the list of London Marathon competitors in search of those tough enough to become ultra runners on an international level, such as 2006 World 100km champion Lizzy Hawker.

One thing I hope he put on the application - Greeks were running ultras long before the marathon was added to the Olympics in 1896. It may be the original distance event!

- SD


  1. I might have to dust off my Canadian passport and prepare for this one.
    Bev Anderson-Abbs

  2. hmm...from couch potato to gold medalist?? ;)

  3. Scott,

    I think you may have read over the article too quickly.

    There are no Commonwealth Games in 2009, or 2012, and a 2014 Olympics would be a winter games.

    The proposal was to the Commonwealth Games Federation for demonstration events in 2009. That's sounds a bit out of place, for many reasons, primarily that the CGF does not generally sponsor individual sport competitions.

    There are Commonwealth Games scheduled for 2014, which I believe are the 2014 Games mentioned in the article.

    Given the recent history of sports trying to be added to, or stay in the Olympic Games, ultramarathoning has a very, very long shot of ever getting into the Olympic Games, no pun intended.

    I have access to a database listing the sports included in over 1064 international multisport competitions. I don't see evidence of any running event longer than a marathon being included in any of those games to date.

    However, perhaps proposals to some of the regional multisport competitions might be a way to promote ultrarunnining to the point where it might eventually warrant inclusion in the Olympic Games.

  4. Good luck on the 50 tomorrow, Scott!

  5. Scott, thanks so much for posting this. I had heard rumors about the 100K being an exhibition event in 2012 but didn't know what the status really was. Now I know not to get my hopes up.

  6. Scott,
    Just noticed the Trans-Sierra crossing has been cancelled due to lack of interest. Too bad, I was really looking forward to doing this race. We will probably do the Marin crossing. Hope Quicksilver went well.


  7. I have to admit that I have some mixed feelings about trying to get into the Olympics. The Olympics are often very record focused. This focus would create an incentive to always try to make the fastest, flattest courses and that could potentially trickle down into the recreational racer level as well. I think it's great to bring more people to the sport and it's obviously great if the endorsements can roll in for the elites, but sometimes I think a lot gets lost. I was an under 18 mountain bike racer in the early to mid 90's and I loved the NORBA culture of that era, but since mountain biking made the Olympics, the race scene has changed a lot. The courses have gotten shorter with generally less climbing in order to make the whole thing more spectator friendly.
    I don't mean to be curmudgeonly, but the current trail running scene reminds me of the Mountain Bike scene back then and I really like it. I'd hate to see it disappear. It could be OK. Road Biking has done well being in the olympics, but still keeping the Tour De France (an event with loads of character and soul) as its premier event. Of course the result is that most people don't care at all what happens in Olympic cycling and the best riders usually don't even bother with the Olympics.
    I guess I'm talking more about trail running than ultramarathons specifically, but I think the best thing, if trail ultrarunning were to make the Olympics, would be to convince host cities that this was the opportunity to showcase the best scenic backpacking trails in the area and try to spur tourism in that way. That could get some great courses and provide a bigger incentive than entries in a record book. Unfortunately, the kind of cities that get chosen for Winter might be better suited than the typical Summer City for that purpose.

  8. I personally want ultramarathons to be part of the Olympics.


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