Are Ironman Marathons Really Marathons?

Press Release - Vienna City Marathon

Only a Marathon is a Marathon

Is the "Marathon" in the sense of a running event 42,195 metres in length or merely 38 kilometres? The answer is: it depends on the sport you're doing. In running there is exact measurement of courses throughout the world. Triathlon, on the other hand, allows deviations from the rules of up to ten per cent. That represents a shortening of the marathon distance of up to 4.2 kilometres! "Triathlon courses cannot be counted as officially measured distances unless the same procedures are carried out as for road races," says Hugh Jones of AIMS, the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races.

The Vienna City Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, points out that running performances in triathlons must accordingly be viewed relatively and the name "Marathon" should be positioned in the sport of running as a brand name.

For years the same accurate and practical regulations for the course measurement of marathons and road races have been in place throughout the world.

The Association of International Marathons and Distance Races (AIMS) has been a pioneer in this respect and created a binding apparatus for such work. It means that it can be guaranteed that a marathon really is 42,195 metres in length. To be more exact: it is certain that a marathon is at least 42,195 metres long. This is because one thousandth of the distance is added to the measured course to ensure that there is no possibility that the prescribed distance falls short. In the case of a marathon, that is 42.2 metres.

A Marathon is a Marathon, wherever it may be

Everyone in running is aware of this and every serious event organiser keeps to this rule. That's how comparisons of performances and recognition of records are possible. This is a very good situation for the millions of runners, the organisers and the public. A marathon is a marathon, anywhere in the world. If an organiser departs from these rules, they are beyond the pale.

But couldn't it be just a little shorter?

"Marathons", "Half Marathons" and other running competitions are, however, part of triathlon events. These running distances are not measured according to AIMS criteria. The rules of the International Triathlon Union (ITU) permit considerable reductions: "Minor deviations in the individual disciplines for reasons of local conditions and/or the difficulty of the course are perfectly acceptable. However, at championships the deviations are only permitted to account for a maximum ± 10%, as the German Triathlon Union states on page 7 of their regulations (2011/13 edition).Reference

If the 10% rule is applied to a privately licensed IRONMAN competition, the "Marathon Distance" of 38 kilometres can be "short" and yet still be considered as conforming to the rules. Which organiser would not use the ruling to their advantage?

For example, in the competition arrangements for the Ironman Austria, the length of the running section is given as 42.195 kilometres. There then follows an addition which allows room for a great deal of interpretation: the distance should be understood having "slight variations depending on geographic course length" - Compare

In principle it matters very little what distance a triathlon includes. If an organiser wants to have the run around a particular curve of a lake and the running distance only comes to 40 kilometres, they're at liberty to do so. However, as soon as competition distances such as Marathons or Half Marathons as well as records are up for discussion, which are precisely regulated in running, the same criteria must be applied.

Recognition for Sporting Achievements!

In no way should the sporting achievements of triathlon and Ironman finishers be belittled and they deserve every respect. The triathletes themselves are among those who suffer in this situation, since their running times are not given in the lists for marathon best performances. A "Marathon" or "Half Marathon" in the context of a triathlon cannot be compared with a Marathon or Half Marathon conducted according to IAAF rules.

There have been attempts in Britain to measure running distances at triathlons according to the same rules as in running. Unfortunately nothing has come of this, as the AIMS expert Hugh Jones reports.

…but under the same Criteria

To present a 38 km run as a course over the marathon distance is a gross deception to participants and public. Any spectator at a long distance triathlon who doesn't know better, thinks that the participants are running the same distance as at the London, New York or Berlin Marathon. But that is not the case.

To sportsmen and women who contest a marathon over 42,195 metres and are delighted if they achieve a hard earned personal best it must seem like a smack in the face to be compared with triathlon performances where the participants may only have covered 38 kilometres.

Even the specialist media report enthusiastically about new Ironman World Records such as recently at the IRONMAN Austria in Klagenfurt or the long distance triathlon in Roth (Germany), although the criteria were lacking. The performances were also set on a par with times in marathon races achieved under IAAF rules. As long as different standards are applied in triathlon compared to athletics, this must be taken into account for running performances in triathlon.

IAAF Rules, but correct!

It is also incomprehensible that the International Triathlon Union ITU refers in its statutes in general to the guidelines of the world governing body of athletics, the IAAF (See: http://www.triathlon.org/images/uploads/eom4-appendix-eventsdepartment-20100331b.pdf <http://www.triathlon.org/images/uploads/eom4-appendix-eventsdepartment-20100331b.pdf> - Run course measurement manual (Chapter 9, P. 113) - "This document is based on the content of the International Association of Athletics Federation (www.iaaf.org) and the Royal Spanish Federation of Athletics (www.rfea.es) …"), but when it comes to reality contravenes the regulations for course measurement to a startling degree.

There are several notable examples of the need for consistency and accuracy in course measurement in running:

In 1981 the American Alberto Salazar achieved a time of 2:08:13 at the New York City Marathon - a world record at the time which was later annulled because the course was shown to be 148 metres short which is three-thousandths of the marathon distance.

The Kenyan Paul Tergat ran 58:51 at the 1996 Stramilano Half Marathon in Milan which appeared to be the first time under 59 minutes. It later emerged that the course was 49 metres short, which meant that the world best was not officially recognised. 49 metres represents something over two-thousandths of a Half Marathon.

In 2010 the Linz Marathon was correctly measured and then a 201 metre bend was removed. This led to none of the times subsequently achieved in that race being recorded in the list of best performances.

The most recent example for the rightly high standard set for recognising records came in the 2011 Boston Marathon. Two runners went under the then valid world record of 2:03:59 which Haile Gebrselassie achieved in Berlin in 2008. Geoffrey Mutai (2:03:02) and Moses Mosop (2:03:06) were not able to celebrate a world record. Apart from the course being the correct length, which was, of course, the case in Boston, the criteria concerning the drop (max. one thousandth of the distance run, therefore 42 metres) and the distance between start and finish, which is permitted to be a maximum 50 per cent of the distance run, which in the case of a marathon is 21.1 kilometres, still had to be observed. The ruling on distance between start and finish is to prevent too much assistance from a tailwind. Both criteria - drop and distance between start and finish - are not met by the Boston Marathon. These criteria are set out in Paragraph 10, Note 28 of the International Competition Rules (IWR) of the World Federation of Athletics, the IAAF.

This would not have been a problem in triathlon. A Marathon can be 4.2 kilometres short, a Half Marathon 2.1 kilometres. We therefore make this direct appeal: rules which have long been recognised in running, should also be valid in Triathlon and Duathlon.

Marathon, a Brand Name worth protecting!

It should be in the interest of the IAAF and AIMS that the name "Marathon" in the sport of running, ie a running competition over 42,195 metres, should have its own position as a brand name. In terms of marketing rights this is probably no longer possible, but certainly possible in the rules of the sports federations. Likewise, a swimming competition, a cycle race and a running competition which are held as a triathlon, are not automatically be allowed to call itself IRONMAN.

The first Marathon under Two Hours?

If athletes like Haile Gebrselassie, the new Marathon world record holder Patrick Makau or 30,000m track world record holder Moses Mosop were to be persuaded to run the "third leg" in an IRONMAN relay competition, the winning time would certainly be under two hours. Would the IAAF recognise that as a world record? No, because they would not have run a marathon.

For more information please visit: www.vienna-marathon.com.
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Service by: www.race-news-service.com

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