September, the IAAF said they would reduce Paula Radcliffe’s marathon world record to a ‘world best’ as there were male pacemakers in the race. Following an appeal by Radcliffe and growing opposition, the IAAF have decided to leave her 2:15:25 times as the official womens Marathon record.
Now, the IAAF is expected to work out a system where the records in mixed races could stand side-by-side with records in all-women races once they get the terminology sorted out.
Many in the sport agree that women run marathons faster when paced by men, since keeping up with men can provide a target to aim for. Running in a group of men can also be less tiring if they shield the athlete from incoming wind.
While the Radcliffe issue may have been sorted out, the fact that any records set in future mixed races are likely to be counted separately means that this story has still a bit to go. What happens if at some future date a woman runs 2:15:20 in a mixed race? If she is denied the title of the Marathon record, could she not point to Paula Radcliffe and say you counted her time, why not mine? How can the old record then be valid if someone else breaks it in the same circumstances? Still sounds like a mess.