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Saturday, August 23, 2008
Separate marathons

Why don't they run the men's and women's Olympic marathons together? They run every other world-class marathon together. And this is the one sport (or event) in which space, rules, and logistics allow the separate competitions to be played simultaneously. And wouldn't it be a nice symbol for gender equity?

Update: Sunday, 7:30 a.m.

In response to Joshue'a comment that inertia trumps absent a compelling reason for combining them, let me rework my point to make it an assertion rather than a question: They should run both marathons together. The compelling reasons for doing so are that they run all other road races together anyway, the symbolic value of having men and women compete together is socially meaningful and furthers one element of the "Olympic spirit," and this is one sport where they can compete together--the fastest women run about 11 minutes behind the fastest men and the logistics allow it.

So I hereby propose this change for 2012.


Women's marathon is a fairly recent addition to the Games (1984), and as I recall they kept it separate then precisely because it was such a historic event and the organizers wanted it to be remembered on its own merits, not as an afterthought to the men's race.

That reasoning has long since become obsolete, but in the absence of a compelling reason to combine the men's and women's events, historical inertia and the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mentality has undoubtedly long since set in by now.

Blogger Joshua -- 8/24/2008 1:27 AM  

What about the drama of victory? The winning runner entering the stadium for the final lap is really great - even for the silver and bronze.

If you run them together, the first woman will likely come in after 5-10 men, and what is often a tight race for silver or gold will come in after four or five more men, with the two to six women in the second group trying to jockey for position among the 10 or so men who will not medal and are now just "in the way."

Not only do you lose the drama, but it is potentially unfair to women runners whose race still matters.

Anonymous Michael Risch -- 8/24/2008 8:57 AM  

To be honest here: it is BETTER that women have their own event for the women themselves. It gives women more exposure and allows for greater profiles of the individual women as well.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 8/24/2008 10:19 AM  

The compelling reasons for doing so are that they run all other road races together anyway, the symbolic value of having men and women compete together is socially meaningful and furthers one element of the "Olympic spirit," and this is one sport where they can compete together[...]

I'm not sure if that would be enough to overcome the inertia, at least not on its own. By "a compelling reason" in my previous post, I was thinking more along the lines of being forced to combine the marathons due to logistical concerns - for example, if the marathon course passes too close to other active Olympic venues. As it is, the marathons are run separately, meaning the organizers have to close off all those streets twice during the Games. But the women's marathon is usually staged at about the halfway point of the Olympics, meaning there are still a lot of other active venues.

Now, I don't know where the London 2012 marathon course will be in relation to the other venues (heck, I don't even know whether the London organizers themselves know this yet), but if they find that running the women's marathon in the midst of X number of other events would be too disruptive, I can see them simply running a combined marathon on the final day (when the men's event is usually held). That way, not only would they only have to close off the course once, but they'd be doing it at the tail end of the Games when most of the other venues have gone dark anyway.

Blogger Joshua -- 8/24/2008 11:56 AM  

A couple of factural corrections that explain why the women and men don't run together.

Rather than the women's winner finishing behind 5-10 men (as Michael Risch wrote) about 11 minutes behind, this year she finished twenty minutes (2:06:32 to 2:26:44)behind in 59th place.

Combining them would show how slow the women really are. I recently saw a chart comparing women's track records with 15 year old boys' records. In most cases the boys had better times. Putting women with the men would diminish the women.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 8/25/2008 12:26 PM  

I might be inclined to agree if men and women did not run every other marathon together, dealing with any differences in time, etc. I guess I still am looking for an explanation for why the Olympic Marathon ought to be different.

Michael is largely correct about 10-11 minutes. The difference between the men's and women's world records is roughly 11 minutes (2:04 compared with 2:15). The larger gap in the Olympics actually can be attributed to the fact of separate marathons--the races were run on different days under different weather conditions, producing a fairly fast men's and relatively slow women's.

Blogger Howard Wasserman -- 8/25/2008 6:57 PM  

Time to move on now.....

Anonymous Anonymous -- 8/25/2008 7:59 PM  

The Boston marathon moved the women's start to 30 minutes before the men.

One issue with combining the 2 (probably not an issue in the Olympics) is that the elite women sometimes use male pace setters.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 8/26/2008 9:18 AM  

Should they run the men's and women's 10,000 together? The 5,000? They run 10k and 5k road races together.

Anonymous john -- 8/27/2008 1:57 PM  

But the Olympic 10K and 5K races are not road races, they are run on a small track. The different paces, plus doubling the number of runners, becomes a problem When space and other logistics come into play, separate events make sense. My point is that those logistical concerns are absent with a road-race marathon--nice wide and long course and fewer runners (male and female) than what world-class runners are accustomed to running with.

Blogger Howard Wasserman -- 8/27/2008 6:37 PM  

If you believe that it is good for women to run against men in the Olympic marathon then you are either not a runner or you don't appreciate long distance running or you want women to take a step BACK in terms of having their athletic efforts showcased on the world stage. Or, maybe you just want something you can't have and just need someone to talk to.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 8/27/2008 6:58 PM  

I think Women marathon is congratulated one.this will helpful to all women.


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Blogger martin -- 9/01/2008 6:17 AM  

I think women marathon is a wonderful one.This is a great achievement.


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Blogger martin -- 9/01/2008 6:22 AM  

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