In light of the new standards dropped by the IAAF, I thought now would be the perfect time to talk about why our sponsors matter and why their financial support means so much to us. If you missed this uproar, read this post by Mario Fraioli where he breaks down exactly how these new standards affect the sport of track & field. (With this news also came the decision to exclude the 5k from the Diamond League races, leaving the 3k as the only distance event left...but we will give you our thoughts on this later). What I really want to make a point of here is about how sports like track & field, rowing, swimming, speed skating, and many more Olympic sports don’t give athletes the financial support to be stable despite the exploitation they face. When reading this article about executive spending by the IOC & the IAAF (International Olympic Committee & International Association of Athletics Federations) I was mind blown by the magnitude of this issue.
Basically, the USATF acts as an amatuer sports organization. This is different from a professional sports association such as NBA Or NFL. We as athletes must pay for a membership in order to be eligible for prize money that we often rely on for part of our income. We occasionally are able to make a profit, but the money from winning races is not enough alone to be financially stable. The money offered by the USATF is often only eligible to the very top performers in our event. But how do you get there if you don’t start from the top? Well, it’s extremely difficult.
The time that goes into running professionally is extensive; our schedules include hundred mile weeks followed by strength sessions, cross training, and if you can afford it, physical therapy. Many make it work, but to what expense? I have been asked countless times when I tell someone I am a semi-professional runner, “How does that work?” We don’t have to ask professional football players, basketball players, or soccer players (unless they are women as we have seen with the new lawsuit - GO LADIES!) how it works because it is obvious. With running, it’s tough. There is pressure to perform perfectly at every race in order to make money. With the new world ranking system, we are adding to this pressure. How does a bad race affect you now? Are you better off dropping out? For context, athletes can now qualify for 2020 Olympic games in one of 2 ways:
Achieving the entry standards within the respective qualification period (January 1, 2019 - May 31 2020 for the Marathon & 50k Race Walk; 10k, 20k Race Walk, and Combined events January 1, 2019 - June 29, 2020; and all other events May 1, 2019 - June 29, 2020.)
2. Qualify by virtue of his/her IAAF World Ranking Position in the selected event at the end of the respective qualification period
The women’s marathon standard time has dropped by over a whopping 15 minutes since the last Olympic cycle, while the men’s standard has dropped by almost 8 minutes. To put this into perspective, Galen Rupp was the only American male to get this standard in 2018 (https://www.runnersworld.com/news/a26811597/new-olympic-standards/).
RDP is lucky to be represented by a company like Oiselle that recognizes our value beyond performance. We need grace to perform optimally and that is exactly what they give us. This leads us in to more on how much our sponsors mean to us and why we are doing what we are doing. We want to be able to give runners a shot to train as professional athletes, so that they can run full time and work if they like but have the opportunity to make that decision. You never really know what can happen when the right support is in place. But, in order to do this we need the financial support. We want to break up what is happening with the federations that represent us but don’t help us reach our potential, even with all of the wealth and resources that they have. We want to bring people together, work with a variety of different sponsors that share our vision, and create an opportunity unlike any other. We want to create a movement where we pull from a variety of resources to collectively provoke change and inspire younger generations by the opportunity they will have.
Watching distance events has long been seen as “boring,” but we can now see how the Diamond League dropping these events from their meets creates a better opportunity to change this and take control of what happens with them.
Tweet from professional distance runner, Lauren Fleshman. Fleshman describes how we can make distance events more successful by “taking them back” and creating our own meets and competitions.
Much like the Sir Walter Miler event, there could be a highlighted distance carnival with 5k and 10k races. Race directors could direct where the money goes instead of the superpower federation that controls the diamond league races. We could make watching these races more interesting with feature events. There is much more money racing on the roads, but why can’t we change that by creating more track meets like the Sir Walter Miler? Track races are the easiest for spectators. It is all right there! We could involve the community, offering up track 5k opportunities (and with that typically new PR’s!) and allow elite athletes to compete.
We may be a small entity now, but we are growing and excited to keep making an impact. Despite our size we will continue to do all that we can to remove the reliance on the executives who profit on our sport and move that profit to the athletes. If you can’t give to us financially we hope that you can instead share this message. We want our voices heard and we need our community and our supporters to do so. Thanks for making 2018 great and here’s to even here in 2019 - happy running!