But Did You Know? World Championship Distance Event Progression (Track)

Steve Weiler said 6 months ago
But did you know there used to be a 3000m at the World Track and Field Championships? Indeed! Here is a quick summary of how distance events longer than 1,500m progressed at the IAAF World Track and Field Championships:

Men
1983 - featured 3,000m Steeplechase, 5,000m, 10,000m, and Marathon
There have been no changes in event offerings since the inaugural Worlds back in 1983.

Women
1983 - offered 3000m and Marathon.
1987 - 10000m event added
1995 - 3000m replaced with 5000m
2005 - 3000m Steeplechase added, marking the first World T&F Champs that women had the same Distance offerings as Men

The historical progression of the longest distances offered on the track and in cross country is an interesting and important topic to examine. An aspect that is not often highlighted, but has always baffled me, is the 3,000m to 42,195m gap established at the first global Athletics championships. I wonder, what rationale was used by our sporting leaders to cap the track races at 3,000m for women vs. 10,000m for men that simultaneously allowed racing over 42,195m?
John Lofranco said 6 months ago
A friend of mine who knows one of the early Canadian women's marathon record holders, (not official at the time) and she said that basically as soon as the "shorter distance" women started running marathons the times went down. This would likely be around 1978 when the best ever went from 2:56 to 2:47. The following year it dropped to 2:36. Interestingly the woman who had run 2:56 was the one who ran 2:36 (and 2:38 the same year) Gayle Olinek. Jacqueline Gareau ran 2:39 in 1979, then 2:30 in 1980.

In 1982 the best women's miler was Debbie Scott with a 4:29 (and an 8:48 3000) with Wendy Van Mierio running 16:21 and Anne-Marie Malone 33:12. Kate Wiley (a name that may be more familiar) ran 16:30 and 35:56 (in a race she won listed as being in "USA"). In 1983 Alizon Wiley and Lynn Williams (now Kanuka) were duking it out over 3000/5000 and Nancy Rooks (32:23) and Malone (34:25) and Kate Wiley were the top 10000m runners. Gareau was still dominating the marathon, and Malone ran one as well in 2:36.

So at least in Canada, women were indeed running these events and, to be honest, in times that were not necessarily that much slower than would be able to make national teams today.

This information is in a book that I have. If someone wants to put it all online, that would be fun but it would take a while It has the national rankings from 1839 to 1992 in it. Pretty cool stuff. It was compiled by Bill McNulty and Ted Radcliffe.
Reply #1
Steve Weiler said 6 months ago

A friend of mine who knows one of the early Canadian women's marathon record holders, (not official at the time) and she said that basically as soon as the "shorter distance" women started running marathons the times went down. This would likely be around 1978...



"Avon first introduced its International Running Circuit for women in 1978, yet athletes and women can still feel its effects today..."
http://www.coolrunning.com/ar/running_about_history.html

The combination of a polarization and limitation of events offered, along with opportunities such as the Avon circuit, did indeed produce some strong women's Marathon results during those Running Boom years. Coupled with the 'dark ages' of the 90s and 2000s, when training methodology (for some) took a step backwards*, Canadian women's marathoning really didn't appear to have advanced much from the 80's until quite recently.

*Don't know that I've ever seen this articulated, but I suspect these years were more detrimental to women's than men's distance running in North America.
Reply #2
Maurice Wilson said 5 months ago
Interesting to also compare the evolution of distances contested at the U20 Championships.

At the first championships in 1986, men competed at 2000mS/C, 5000m, 10000m and 20K road race. And women competed at 3000m and 10000m.
The mens S/C became 3000m in 1988. And the womens 3000mS/C was added in 2004.
The 20K road race was dropped after 1994.
The womens 10000m was replaced by the 5000m in 1996.

2020 will be the first U20 championship with the same distances for men and women, as the mens 10000m is replaced by the 3000m. I don't think this was the right solution to achieving equality. I hope they don't take the same approach to equality in U20 cross country.
Reply #3
Steve Weiler said 5 months ago
Thanks Maurice, very interesting. Can you clarify, was that 20k RW or running?


2020 will be the first U20 championship with the same distances for men and women, as the mens 10000m is replaced by the 3000m. I don't think this was the right solution to achieving equality. I hope they don't take the same approach to equality in U20 cross country.


Agreed, though lowering the Men's distances is certainly the easier option as that doesn't require coaches to directly address why they aren't able to develop/train women to race the same distances.
Reply #4
Maurice Wilson said 5 months ago
It was a 20K road running race. Presumably considered at the time as the junior equivalent to the marathon, but only for men.

Canada was represented at the first two championships.
1986 - Phil Ellis (19th) and Tom Bessai (DNF)
1988 - Nick Tsioros (11th) and Paddy McCluskey (27th)

Not surprising, East Africans took all the medals in the first 3 editions. But for some reason no Africans ran the final edition in 1994.
Reply #5
Steve Weiler said 5 months ago
Wow, that is quite the shift from the longest Junior championship distance race moving from 20km down to 5,000m. If there is any form of article or press release detailing the removal of the 20k with underlying reasoning, I'd be curious to read it.
Reply #6
Andrew Jones said 5 months ago
I wonder, what rationale was used by our sporting leaders to cap the track races at 3,000m for women vs. 10,000m for men that simultaneously allowed racing over 42,195m?

All I can suggest/speculate on is that the "stadia event administrators" and the "non-stadia event adminstrators" in the early days of the WC were very different groups! Put another way, the stadia group were...rather primordial in their attitude regarding track-event equalization for Men and Women, and were consequently glacial as regards an expedient reform. Conversely, I would offer that the road group (non-stadia) admins were a different set of folks that leveraged the annual Marathon record reduction by Grete Waitz at NYC from 1979 onward (and other compelling data) -- thus effectively communicating female Marathon prowess and ability to the powers-that-be at the IAAF.
Reply #7

LEAVE A REPLY

In order to post comments you must login or create an account.
By posting on our forum you are agreeing to the following guidelines.