WRITTEN BY: KATE DZIENIS
IMAGE: DOMINIC CHAPLIN
IF YOU LIKE IT THAN YOU SHOULDA PUT AN OLYMPIC RING ON IT
With an estimated 20 million participants since 2010, trail running has become one of the world’s fastest growing sports (according to International Track and Field Federation). With the basic requirements only being a pair of shoes and having the great outdoors somewhere close by, there are now more than 25,000 races across 195 countries with nearly 2 million registered competitors. So with the numbers so large, isn’t it time we get the sport recognised at an Olympic level? Kate Dzienis delves into the potential of introducing trail running to the Olympics and the Paralympics, and discovers a push has already started, hard and fast, to get the sport into the 2032 Brisbane Games.
On April 10, way back when in 1896, a group of 17 male runners gathered at the start line of the first modern Summer Olympic Games in Athens, Greece to run 24.8mi, or 39.9km, to the Panathenaic Stadium.
After doing a bit of research, I had to chuckle to myself when I’d learnt that 3rd Place finisher Spyridon Belokas was disqualified for ‘hitching a ride in a carriage along part of the race course’, and the winner – a Greek man by the name of Spyridon Louis – became a national hero, only to return to farm life and never race again.
I guess Louis ticked that off his bucket list and was happy to leave it at that.
It wasn’t until more than 100 years later that women were granted an addition to the marathon program, at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, with gold medal winner Joan Benoit clocking in an amazing time of 2:24:52 and inspiring women everywhere to follow her lead.
Cross country running made its appearance (for men only) in the 1912, 1920 and 1924 Games, but was quickly cancelled off the program. In 2020 there was a push by World Athletics to re-introduce it at the 2024 Games in Paris, with suggestions of a 5km event that would see two men and two women per nation compete in a mixed-gender race – but it was rejected. There was also news doing the rounds in 2017 that ultra running (regardless if it was meant to be track, road or trail) was successfully campaigned for and due to appear at the 2024 Games, but looking at the preliminary schedule of events dated April 2023, sadly I don’t see it listed.
It’s now 2023, and trail running has, as you’re all well aware, blitzed itself on the athletic scene and is continuously gaining faster momentum than Japan’s bullet trains. From my point of view, there are a barrage of reasons why the sport deserves Olympic status, and local organising committees have incredible opportunities here to help make it happen.
But it all starts with International Olympic Committee (IOC) recognition, where criteria needs to be met; and of course, campaigning hard and fast to officials can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars so there’s a bit of a downside to that one. One of the best things to do, though, is to introduce trail running to officials in the year a country hosts the Games – and in our case, it’s Brisbane 2032.
CONTINUE READING THIS STORY – AND MORE – IN TRAIL RUN MAG #48 (AUG-SEPT 2023).