|Paula Radcliffe at the 2003 London Marathon (Getty Images)|
Apparently the IAAF has decided that mixed races can no longer count as a women's world record. Instead, performances from those races can only be considered a world best. World records can now only be set in a women's race, since male pacers can help a woman run a faster time. This is being applied retroactively, so the world record is being stripped from Paula Radcliffe's incredible 2:15:25 performance at the 2003 London Marathon. That's 5:10 pace in case you're wondering. It wasn't even until 1958 that any men were able to run that fast! In its place, it is being awarded to Radcliffe's 2:17:25, which is her third best time for the marathon (Radcliffe has also gone 2:17:18). Imagine someone told you that your PR is no longer your PR. Instead, your new PR is actually your third best time, and your fastest time no longer counts. It used to count, but it doesn't anymore because we just changed the rules and are going to apply them retroactively. You still ran the time with your own two legs on a legit course without the aid of performance enhancing drugs, it just doesn't count because there were guys in the race. (Apologies to my male audience, but just try to work with me here.) Now imagine that you're the greatest female marathoner this world has ever seen, and that your PR can no longer be considered the world record. I am disappointed.
If you're looking for Radcliffe's take on it, here's an excerpt from Runner's World:
I think it is a decision that is going to be hard to fully enforce. Look at how many national and area records are set in mixed races. I also think it is a little unfair to set it like that retroactively. If they were going to make that rule, it should have been so from the beginning when world records came in on the roads. Now it is messy, in my two mixed races it was not my decision, rather the race organizers', to have male runners with me, and in each case I very consciously ran alongside them rather than ever behind. Indeed, in London, I was actively racing the two guys. Furthermore, I fully believe that I would have run pretty much the same time that day alone with the crowds and motorbikes. However, rules are rules and I am not stressing about things that are out of my control.The World Marathon Majors and Association of International Marathons has stated that the new ruling is "confusing and unfair and does not represent the history of our sport." Deena Kastor also has a good quote:
I wouldn't mind if someone would have broken that record because it's gratifying to see the sport move forward. But to have it taken away? That feels like a little bit of a cheap shot. To have it stripped from you, when no drugs were involved, when no scandal was involved, is hard to believe.
Kastor's 2:19:36 American record has also been replaced, that one by Joan Benoit's 2:24:52 (Benoit's actual PR is 2:21:21).
New York Times has a good write up on the whole situation.
...Can you imagine the backlash if the NBA suddenly decided to get rid of 3-pointers because they felt they were unfair, and to go back to past championship games and alter all the scores to reflect those changes? Take away championships from teams, and give them to someone else based on rules that players couldn't possibly have known about? You can argue that you understand why they want to limit world record performances to women-only races, but applying rules retroactively is NOT. COOL.
The IAAF may no longer consider it the world record, but this is still the fastest marathon ever run by a women. It's incredibly inspiring...enjoy the video: