Close to 4,500 ran in Sunday’s Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, with many (if not most) over 35. It was designated the World Masters Athletics Marathon Championships — the first time a 26-miler was held outside the WMA world outdoor track meet since 1975.
So how many folks competed for WMA medals? Would you believe 35?
Yup. Forty-three years after the first WAVA gold medals were awarded in the marathon — at Toronto worlds — runners couldn’t care less about a “world title” at Scotiabank. One reason: You had to pay an extra $110 to enter the WMA event, run concurrently with the bigger marathon.
Sunday’s WMA winner was American chef (via Belgium) Olivier Vrambout in 2:34:28, age 44. The women’s champion was Canadian Olympian Krista DuChene in 2:36:46, age 40. Good on them.
But back in 1975, 200 took part in the first WAVA world marathon (including seven women). By 1977 Sweden worlds, the number had risen to 586. And in the biggest WAVA marathon of them all — at 1993 Miyazaki worlds in Japan – 5,046 finished 26.2 miles.
At the 2016 Perth General Assembly, WMA voted to end the marathon at the track meet and start a separate championships concurrent with a major world marathon. That apparently was Sunday’s event.
The results book of 1975 Toronto worlds said: “With over 1,400 entrants and 5,000 individual starts, this was the largest track and field meet ever held in North America. At least one event, the Marathon, was the largest ever to have taken place in Canada.”
One has to wonder if the Scotiabank WMA marathon was the smallest ever to take place. Also: Is this just a bad start? Or does it mean the marathon is now a WMA afterthought?
So a poll.
Contribute to support independent track and field journalism:
On Facebook, Lesley Richardson wrote:
This very, very small group (10 runners came from Europe) raises the question of why the WMA has tendered this World Championship seperately, just like the previous throwing championship in the beginning of WAVA.
Is it world-championships-like when a handful of runners starts? Does it make any sense to call such competition as World Championship?
Or was it the desire of the council to go on another trip with a new championship?
In any case, WMA-council members should intensively evaluate this separate championship.
So 4950 dollars for 45 entrants for what? Why did they not just automatically enter every over 35 that entered the race. Quite clear here that this was another money grabbing exercise but this time it didn’t work. Supposed to be promoting masters sport but yet again it’s not the first priority.
We’ve just had (in Malaga) a championships described as “stadia”. It wasn’t, of course, because it was bookended by the cross-country events at the beginning, and a half marathon on the final day. If you want to be a purist about these things, neither of those – nor the road walks, nor the 10k road race – are “stadia” events. However, WMA and the home LOC can’t afford to ditch them from the “stadia” championships, because they represent a cash-cow for the event. They bulk up the overall attendance with hundreds and hundreds of runners prepared to run an out of season off-road event at the start of the championships, and offer them another distance event, in the form of a road race, two weeks later. This ties them to two weeks in their hotel, does good things for local tourism, etc, etc. To be frank, neither event really has anything to do with the main business of the championships, except maybe by allowing a few hundred metres in a stadium at the end.
WMA have read the runes and realised that marathon running (certainly marathon running in 30 degree C heat, which would have been the case in Malaga) is now significantly less popular and less aspirational than half marathon running, compared to a few years back. A look at any domestic event calendar will show that. The Londons, Chigagos, Bostons etc still draw in huge numbers, but regional and local marathon numbers have dwindled, and many events have simply ceased. So, it’s a no-brainer for the WMA if they want to keep people at the “stadia” championships to put a money-spinning event at the beginning and end.
Of course, this begs the question about why there isn’t a “World non-stadia championship”? European Masters has one, and I expect there similar in some other WMA regions. That would be the proper home for a World Masters marathon, of course .
The WMA outdoor champs should mirror the IAAF outdoor champs with a full marathon. I ran it in 2011 and in presumably the last one in 2016 , both times on short rest after the 1500m. Great experiences. The 1/2 is simply not the same race.