Why The New Rules Banning Male Pacers Are Unfair

Image by fergie_lancealot/Flickr
Image by fergie_lancealot/Flickr

Last month, the International Association of Athletics Federations decided that women who run alongside men in road races cannot set world records. The IAAF now believes that male pacers give women an undue advantage, and have made the incredible decision to remove male-paced times from its record books. Officially, that disqualifies the standing world record, Paula Radcliffe's 2:15:25, which she set while running alongside two Kenyan men at the London Marathon in 2003, and elevates the world's third best time, 2:17:42, which Radcliffe ran in 2005 on her own. The IAAF has been concerned about male-paced female records for some time, and became especially concerned when Kenya's Mary Keitany broke the half-marathon world record while drafting off of a man earlier this year.

Women who run with men do gain some advantage. A male pacer is likely bigger than a female pacer and may block more wind. A man will also be able to run all or most of the race, and because he's not redlining, he can hit more consistent splits. (This is a point Phil Hersh of the Chicago Tribune went out of his way to avoid last week.) So by removing men from the pacing duties, the IAAF has made women's times, in a very, very narrow sense, more natural. But because the rule is inconsistent and retroactive, the IAAF's decision is bad.

Filed To: Running

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