The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has announced a new rule for marathon races starting from 2023: medals will be awarded to the best non-East African runners in addition to the overall winners. The decision was made after years of complaints from runners from other regions who felt they had no chance of competing with the dominant East African athletes, especially those from Kenya and Ethiopia.
The IAAF president, Sebastian Coe, explained the rationale behind the new rule: “We want to encourage diversity and inclusivity in our sport, and we recognize that East African runners have a natural advantage over others due to their genetic makeup, lifestyle, and training environment. We hope that by giving medals to the best non-East African runners, we can motivate them to improve their performance and challenge the East African supremacy.”
The new rule has received mixed reactions from the running community. Some welcomed it as a fair and positive move, while others criticized it as a form of discrimination and patronization. One of the supporters of the new rule was Mo Farah, the British runner who won four Olympic gold medals in 2012 and 2016. Farah, who was born in Somalia but moved to Britain as a child, said: “I think it’s a great idea. It’s not easy to compete with the East Africans, who are so fast and consistent. I know how hard it is because I train with them in Kenya sometimes. They are like machines. They deserve respect and admiration, but so do the other runners who work hard and give their best. This way, everyone can feel proud and rewarded for their efforts.”
Some also argued that East Africans were becoming arrogant with even kids winning major marathons. “How can Kelvin Kiptum, a 23 year old break a marathon record? Marathons are won by veterans who have trained for ages to build high tolerance. At this rate, they are not only winning but also disrespecting the world.”
One of the opponents of the new rule was Eliud Kipchoge, the Kenyan runner who held the world record for the marathon with a time of 2:01:39. Kipchoge, who also became the first person to run a marathon under two hours in an unofficial event in 2019, said: “I think it’s a bad idea. It’s not fair and respectful to the East Africans, who have earned their success through dedication and discipline. We don’t need any special treatment or recognition. We just want to run and compete with everyone on equal terms. This rule will create division and resentment among the runners, and it will lower the standards and quality of the sport.”
The new rule will be implemented in all significant marathon events starting from 2023, including the Boston Marathon, the London Marathon, the Berlin Marathon, and the New York City Marathon. The IAAF said that it will monitor the impact and feedback of the new rule and make adjustments if necessary.
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