|Beatrice Chepkoech after setting a world record for the women 3000m steeplechase|
Interestingly, some statistics have it that Kenyan runners have won roughly over 40% of all titles in the long-distance races. Their Eastern African neighbors, especially from Ethiopia and Uganda have also been doing well in these distances. Despite the reduction in the number of meetings where athletes would get the opportunity to run these events, the Olympic qualifying standards in these events have also been elevated to almost unattainable times.
If the move to scrape the distances was, directly or indirectly, based on the nationalities of those who win them, then definitely more events will most likely have to be scraped in the near future as well. Unless the athletes that win these races continue being at the “right percentage.”
Here is a real-life story I once experienced, and that I believe could be an epitome of what this move will likely result in the near future.
A man and his son were taking a bull to the market one day. They had a rope tied to the aggressive bull so that it would be easier to guide it in case it tries to run back home. On the way, they found a young boy who was also heading to the market. The mischievous man who did not want any harm to befall his son decided to hand over the rope to the young boy they met on the road, asking the boy to tie the rope on his hand so that the bull will not escape.
The man's son heard that and quickly decided to take the rope and tie it on his own hand. Before his father could realize what was going on, the bull pulled the rope and the son's hand was broken. The plan was meant to hurt the other innocent boy but it ended up hurting the man's son!
Below are what I think are the most likely to be the practical results of this move.
1. Kenyans, Ugandans, and Ethiopians will start dominating the shorter track events as well
With no more chances to appear at the IAAF diamond league races in the 5000m/10,000m races, Kenyan, and Eastern African, athletes will most definitely switch their focus to the shorter distances and will soon dominate them as well. The only reason why they have not been doing so is that very few athletes currently train for such events in these countries.
2. Track and field athletic fans will decrease in number
Different people attend a meeting to watch different events. Some are interested in the high jump, others in the sprint events while others are interested in the distance races.
Obviously, if the distance races are removed from the diamond league meetings, then a third of the fans will lose interest in the meetings.
3. Fewer people will be motivated to join running
Long-distance events appeal to many non-competitive runners given the nature of training that do not need anything more than a trail path to start training. These runners will feel more connected to the sport of running as they will be comparing their paces with those of the elite runners besides the fact that they also have the chances to participate in mass 5km and 10km races.
The move to cut out the distance races will be tantamount to disconnecting the largest group of runners (over 90% of all runners in the world) from feeling part of the IAAF. Some runners may lose the motivation to keep training.
4. A mass exodus from track to the road races
It has already been happening since the 10,000m races became extinct. Most runners have been moving to the roads in order to find opportunities to make use of their talents. Now with IAAF shunning the 5,000m as well, why would any talented athlete bother with track anymore?
5. Any future decisions made by the IAAF council will always be scrutinized with suspicion
A day will come when the IAAF will want to scrape off the 1500m and the 800m for the TV as well or to change the diamond league races to bi-annual meetings and more people will begin questioning the real reason behind such decisions.
Not only that, but even some past decisions like the changing of the world cross country race to a bi-annual event and some other double standards that might have been applied in dealing with athletes might re-surface.