World Athletics To Test Steeplechase Mile, Mixed 4x100m But Any Other Ideas?

By Paul Snyder

June 5, 2024

Before its Ultimate World Championships announcement, World Athletics published their four-year business strategy, which mentioned that it will be testing out new track and/or field events – like a mile-long steeplechase and a mixed-gender 4 x 100m relay. These proposed events are random but inoffensive, as if Seb Coe opened up his “Track and Field Mad Libs” and went to town. But making up entirely new events without any real historical precedent does have a way of cheapening the product.

There are plenty of problems with track and field – ask anyone on Twitter – but is “existing events are too boring” really one of them, and are new events really the solution?

We’re not opposed to experimenting with new or different events outside a global championship setting, it’s just that there are already a host of existing events that have established context and are already contested at varying levels of the sport that might make for better additions to the program.

If there really are no bad ideas in brainstorming, we’ve got a few suggestions. And where better to start than the paragon of excellence that is the American high school track and field system? There are something like one million high school track & field athletes in America during any given school year. Surely with those kinds of numbers, via trial and error, we’re already sitting on a goldmine of events that World Athletics could “test” in the future. Let’s explore some of the options:

❌ 25+ heats of any one event: While nice for taking a beat to grab tepid concession stand nachos, this concept isn’t ready for the big time.

❌ 25+ runners in one heat: While a good way to bring in the critical fan demographic of “parents of people competing,” it would slow down the meet significantly when they inevitably have to call back every race for a fall at the start.

❌ Coaches’ 4 x 400m Relay: Coach selections are political enough to begin with without having to jockey for relay spots as well.

❌ Throwers’ 4 x 100m Relay: Nothing brings the house down at a high school invitational like an unscored throwers’ relay to cap things off, but the stakes are too high at a global championship. While there’s no doubt Joe Kovacs handing off to Ryan Crouser would be entertaining, no one wants to see a 300-pound double Olympic champion pull a hamstring.

❓ 4 x 800m relay: Though popular at the high school level as a means of juicing your 800m “PR,” at the level of international competition things would likely play out too similarly to the 4 x 400m to make this all that interesting. The usual suspect countries would simply run away with the medals year after year.

✅ The distance medley relay: Relays rock. Everyone loves relays. This one is especially exciting because of just how weird it gets. Outside of the 400m leg, things tend to reset and get tactical with every baton exchange. That makes it ripe for an upset – something World Athletics should enjoy since parity between competing countries seems like an important factor in growing the sport. Plus it gives distance stars the chance to rack up the hardware using the sprinter playbook with a few relay medals. Give us more DMRs!

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Paul Snyder

Meme-disparager, avid jogger, MS Paint artist, friend of Scott Olberding, Citius Mag staff writer based in Flagstaff. Supplying baseless opinions, lukewarm takes, and vaguely running-related content. Once witnessed televison's Michael Rapaport cut a line of 30 people to get a slice of pizza at John's on Bleeker at 4am. You can follow Paul on Twitter at @DanielDingus.