Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Running a 12:59 5k and losing $300

Renato Canova, coach to many of the world's best runners, explained on LetsRun how one of his runners, Kenyan Leonard Komon, recently ran a $12:59 5k and lost $300 in the process:

"Last year in Oslo (Diamond League) he ran 12'58", becoming n. 9 like in Eugene. He received a prize of 200 USD. His ticket for going Oslo from Kenya had a cost of 1200 USD, and the official reimbursement was of 700 USD. Since you are an expert mathematic, you can see that, for running 12'58", he had to pay 300 USD from his pocket."

By contrast, Komon recently "went to New York for winning a road race of 10 km. Putting together prize connected with his victory and a bonus for the race record, he won 45,000 USD."

At least from a long-distance perspective, track appears to be dying a slow death. The number of world-class races at 10,000 are dwindling, and the distance is more and more becoming a road race. It's entirely possible that someone who runs the 10,000 at the Olympics or World Championships is running it off the back of a performance from the previous year or a single qualifying performance this year, not unlike the marathon.

Marathons have become mass spectacles matched by highly competitive performances. The stunning 2:03 at Boston this year simply underlined this growing phenomenon. In contrast, other forms of long-distance running are dying. The World Cross Country Championships, likely the most competitive long-distance race anywhere in the world, are now a biennial event because nobody (read: no European nation) is interested. Europe has traditionally been where the money for track came, but European audiences are not that interested in watching African runners perform.

Even the IAAF World Championships of track have ended up in Daegu, a turn of events that, with all due respect to Daegu, is baffling. No one would call Daegu a hotbed of athletics or anything else in Korea, except, perhaps, a literal hotbed as the hottest city in Korea. What's likely is that the World Championships were one more way for Korea to prove its international stature as a host of the Olympics, the World Cup and now the IAAF World Championships. As such, it bid for the event, which other cities are not too interested in doing.

One of my favourite writers, commentators or whathaveyou on running is Steve Boyd from Kingston, Ontario. I can't find the comment now, but Boyd put the now decades-long decline in interest in athletics as a spectator sport in proper perspective. It's not that track is in decline but, rather, large-scale interest in running and even walking was a unique phenomenon of the early twentieth century which made it until the 1980s.

It's unlikely that even someone of Usain Bolt's stature will be able to rescue track because compared to other sports, it's simply bizarre to watch on TV. Competitions are too irregular and the sport is too international, in sharp contrast to team sports or predictable individual sports like tennis or golf. This is not bad in and of itself, but when runners abandon middle-distance events for long-distance events because of a lack of money in the former, we know that a lack of interest is actually hurting the sport.

1 comment:

Alex said...

K-Town represent! Holla!