Abbott World Marathon Majors May Become Host To The Marathon World Championships

World Athletics President Seb Coe says the fusion is fueled by climate change and athlete opportunities

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The world of elite marathon running is undergoing a significant transformation as World Athletics President Seb Coe reveals plans to merge the World Championships marathons into the prestigious World Marathon Majors (WMM). 

The move aims to address pressing concerns related to climate change and enhance opportunities for athletes, all while reshaping the global marathon calendar.

Coe, a vocal advocate for proactive measures in the face of climate change, emphasized the urgency of action, criticizing governments for their perceived inaction on the matter. He expressed the need for sports organizations to take the lead in navigating through the challenges posed by global warming.

Abbott World Marathon Majors May Become Host To The Marathon World Championships 1
Photo Credit: Mohan, Doha Stadium Plus Qatar

In a recent announcement, Coe detailed ongoing discussions with the organizers of the Abbott WMM series to seamlessly incorporate the World Championships for the marathon into their high-profile city events.

The motivation behind this integration stems from a desire to mitigate the impact of rising global temperatures on marathon competitions. 

The World Athletics Championships typically take place biannually in August, which is not an ideal time to host marathons. Added to this, the event is often under pressure by broadcast rights holders to feature the marathon events later in the day, when viewers are more apt to tune in.

By contrast, all of the World Marathon Majors, which include Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York City, are held in either spring or fall, and have historically featured cooler weather and with it the opportunity to run world record times.

Although, in recent years even the Majors have experienced rising temperatures and increasingly volatile weather conditions.

Coe cited a survey revealing that a staggering 76% of elite athletes acknowledged the profound influence of climate change on their training and competitive programs. 

The harsh conditions experienced during the 2019 World Championships marathon in Doha, with temperatures reaching 32.7°C and humidity levels at 73.3%, highlighted the urgency of finding practical solutions to safeguard athlete welfare.

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Photo Credit: Chad Veal

One proposed solution involves the potential reduction of the marathon distance to a half-marathon during the World Championships.

Coe believes this adjustment could alleviate some of the athlete welfare issues while providing them with an opportunity to participate in both the World Championships and subsequent Marathon Majors events, such as those held in Chicago or New York City.

“The issue for us is really about how we can create those opportunities,” Coe stated to Athletics Weekly, acknowledging the dilemma faced by athletes torn between participating in global championships and lucrative road races. 

The proposal to condense the marathon distance aligns with a broader initiative to re-evaluate the global marathon calendar in response to the ongoing challenges posed by climate change.

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Photo Credit: Chad Veal

As the marathon world continues to feel the ongoing and far-reaching consequences of global warming, Coe envisions the need for a collective effort within the sporting community to reevaluate and restructure event schedules. 

He emphasized that the sport must take the lead in addressing climate-related concerns, as just one way to provide some immediate relief from the environmental crisis seems elusive.

The integration of the World Championships for the marathon into the World Marathon Majors would be a pivotal moment in the evolution of elite marathon running. 

This strategic move not only seeks to enhance athlete welfare in the face of climate change challenges but also promises to reshape the global marathon calendar for years to come. 

As discussions progress, the sporting world eagerly awaits a harmonious fusion of world-class competition and sustainable event planning.

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Jessy has been active her whole life, competing in cross-country, track running, and soccer throughout her undergrad. She pivoted to road cycling after completing her Bachelor of Kinesiology with Nutrition from Acadia University. Jessy is currently a professional road cyclist living and training in Spain.

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