The January WMRA Council Meeting just concluded. A letter including all of your signatures as a show of support was sent to all WMRA Council and Congress members in advance of this meeting. Both the issue of Equal Team Size and Equal Distance were included on the meeting agenda. Our voices were heard!
“Equality of course distances for men and women as well as team category sizes was a lengthy discussion point resulting in several changes which, now approved by Council will be put forth to the WMRA Congress for consideration. Should the Congress approve the changes, they would go into effect in January 2017 and be part of the 2017 World Mountain Running Championships program. Those changes include:
Senior men and senior women will run an equal distance course of 10 kilometers (+/- 10%) The course is approximated based on the ramifications of the venue, which changes from year to year.
Junior men and junior women will run an equal distance course of approximately 5 kilometers. (+/- 10%)
in both cases, the course will have 10% ascent/descent difference.
The team makeup by category will be the same across all categories. Up to five athletes can be included on an entry per category, with 4 to start/race and 3 to score. One of the reasons for this change is to reduce the cost of accommodations for the LOC, who will be responsible for the 3 scoring members and team staff, while the federations will bear the cost of non-scoring athletes.”
Selection criteria announced for 2016 US Mountain Running Team
USATF Mountain Running Championships to feature equal race distances for men and women
The 2016 USATF Mountain Running Championship returns to Loon Mountain Ski Area in Lincoln, New Hampshire on July 3 and will be the sole selection race for the US Mountain Running Team. After considerable research and deliberation, the US Mountain Running Team staff has decided to equalize the race distances for men & women at the Loon Mountain Race. Men and women will have separate starts and run a 6.6 mile course climbing 2950’ to the summit of Loon Mountain Ski Area.
This decision represents a departure from a team selection strategy dating back to 2011 when the team staff recommended selection races very closely mirror the World Mountain Running Championship (WMRC) courses for men & women in both distance & profile. The rational being that athletes are best prepared for the WMRC when they race a course that matches the WMRC – approximately 12K for men and 8K for women.
When established in 1985, the World Mountain Running Association (WMRA) modeled it’s championship (then called a “Trophy”) race distances on the precedent set by the IAAF’s World Cross Country Championships where women ran a shorter distance than men.* These unequal distances are codified in the WMRA Constitution. US team selection races from 2011 to 2015 used the WMRC courses as a guide and featured separate course lengths and profiles for men and women.
This decision to equalize race distances was made based on information from a number of sources including:
1. Feedback from the mountain running community collected via an online survey.
2. Soliciting input from elite mountain runners & the USATF MUT Executive Committee.
3. Reviewing the effectiveness of our current selection strategy by comparing past US team selection races to team performances at past World Mountain Running Championships.
The results of this information gathering was as follows:
1. Results of the survey were overwhelmingly in favor a equalizing race distances. 117 of 130 total respondents supported equal race distances for men & women. 48 of 50 women supported equal distances. 24 of 25 women who had previously competed at the World Mountain Running Championships and/or USATF Mountain Running Championships supported equal distances. You can find results of the 2015 Mountain Running Survey here:
2. Feedback from elite athletes and the MUT Executive Committee was mixed but thoughtful and nuanced. Most supported the concept of equal distances but were concerned about the impact of changing our established selection criteria. Questions included; Are male athletes best prepared to race 12K at the WMRC if the selection race is 8K or 10K? Are female athletes best prepared to race 8K at the WMRC if they are racing a longer selection race? What would be the impact on team scoring at the WMRC given our mandate by USATF to achieve the best possible performances at the World Championships? To try and get answers to these questions we looked to our past history of selection races & world championship performances (see section 3 below).
3. US team selection races vs. team performance at the WMRC. After reviewing the data we were not able to prove that US teams performed better when the selection race course more closely resembled the world championship course. In some years the courses were closely matched like in 2013 for the men’s race – within 2% based on finishing time – and the men finished 4th. In 2011 the men’s selection race was almost 10 minutes shorter than the WMRC and the men again finished 4th. Examples on the women’s side include 2012 where the winning selection/WMRC race times were within a minute and the women won Gold. In 2014 the courses were also about 1 minute different and the women won Bronze. Our conclusion is that it’s important for selection race courses and WMRC courses resemble each other but not necessarily be an exact match. You can find details from 2007 to 2015 USMRC vs. WMRC US team performances here:
For perspective on what constitutes a closely matched course, consider back in 2003 a 7.5 mile dirt road uphill only Vail Hillclimb with 2000 vertical feet was used as a selection race for a rough, technical up/down WMRC with 3000’ of climb & descend. That year our men’s team finished 8th at the WMRC and the winner of the Vail Hillclimb finished 61st. While it’s clear that the Vail Hill Climb didn’t make a good selection race in 2003, it’s not necessarily clear that our “closely matched course” strategy from 2011 to 2015 could by itself deliver medal winning team performances. More important factors include attracting the very best mountain/trail runners to our team selection race, ensuring qualified runners accept their team spots and race to the best of their abilities at the World Mountain Running Championships.
Why choose 10K? The reason for selecting a 10K course at Loon Mountain is the limit of available vertical gain. There is a 2100’ difference between the top and bottom of Loon Mountain requiring some downhill running to achieve the current 3000’ of climbing. This results in a 6% average grade compared to 8% for the men’s course at the 2016 WMRC. Adding distance would result in a further reduction in average grade.
If Loon Mountain doesn’t have enough vertical gain to match a men’s WMRC course why choose it for a selection race? There are many factors that go into choosing a selection race besides course. Those factors include available prize money, elite athlete support, a race director willing to make a custom course and the overall financial sustainability of the event. Acidotic Racing has hosted high quality selection races 6 of the past 9 years, offered prize money and donated thousands of dollars to US Mountain Running Team members to pay for their travel to the World Mountain Running Championships.
The final factor supporting the decision to equalize race distances are related to the men’s and women’s courses planned for the 2016 WMRC in Bulgaria. Based on results from the 2013 European Mountain Running Championships held on the same courses, the men’s and women’s winning times should be closer than any recent WMRC – only about 4 minutes 40 seconds. Since 2008 the average wining time difference between men and women at uphill championships has been 9 minutes and 45 seconds.
While there are now equal race distances for the 2016 USMRC, this may not be repeated in 2017. This is because up/down courses at the WMRC for odd numbered years are substantively different from uphill courses due to the multi lap format. Since 2007 the average wining time difference between men and women at up/down championships has been 12 minutes and 15 seconds – 25% more than during uphill years. This is not to say that the US Mountain Running Team staff does not fully support gender equity – we do – and we will continue to advocate for gender equity at the World Mountain Running Championships in race distance and team size. In the meantime, we need to be sure to manage a selection process that is rational and fields the best possible team for the world championships. When the location and course for the 2017 World Mountain Running Championships are determined, the US Mountain Running Team staff and the USA Track & Field Mountain/Ultra/Trail Council will again evaluate options for an appropriate selection race.
The US Mountain Team Staff will continue to advocate for mountain running athletes including lobbying for full funding, gender equality in time size** & race distance and providing the best opportunities to assemble a competitive team for the world championships. We welcome questions, comments or suggestions from the mountain running community.
The survey was designed by the US Mountain Running Team Staff to gather feedback from our mountain running community & gauge interest in equalizing race distances for men and women at the USATF Mountain Running Championships (USMRC). The survey was also designed to gather input for the following important issues that are beyond the direct control of the US Mountain Running Team (USMRT) staff and the USATF Mountain, Ultra & Trail Running Council:
– Equal race distances at the World Mountain Running Championships (WMRC). Current distances are codified in the WMRA constitution.
– Equal representation of men’s & women’s team. Currently only 6 men & 4 women can be entered to race at the WMRC.
130 survey responses were submitted; 50 from women and from 80 men. Interestingly, of the 165 participants in the 2015 US Mountain Running Championships in Bend, Oregon, 49 were women and 116 were men. Included in the 130 respondents were 18 past world mountain running championship team members and 54 competitors in the US Mountain Running Championships.
How many times have you competed in the US Mountain Running Championships?
– 11 on more than four occasions
– 2 on four occasions
– 4 on three occasions
– 14 on two occasions
– 23 competed in one previous US championship
– 76 have never competed in the US Mountain Running Championships (33 women / 43 men)
Equal distance at the USMRC can be achieved by one of three ways. Which method would you support?
– 13 said don’t change the current distances (8k for women, 12k for men)(2 previous world team members)(2 women / 11 men)
– 80 said by increasing the women’s race distance to be equal to the current men’s distance of 12k (9 previous world team members)(29 women / 51 men)
– 35 said to meet in the middle and have both men and women race 10k. (6 previous world team members)(18 women / 17 men)
– 2 said to Reducing the men’s race distance to be equal to the current women’s distance of 8k. (1 previous world team member)(1 woman / 1 man)
If there is one selection race (US Championship), which date range would be ideal for you? Note: the 2016 WMRC will be held on September 4.
– 19 prefer late May
– 21 prefer early June
– 18 prefer late June
– 26 prefer early July (July 3 – Loon Mountain)
– 22 prefer late July
– 18 prefer early August
– 8 did not answer
For all respondents – preferred distance at USA CHAMPS:
– 13 for no change to men’s & women’s race distances (2 former world team members)
– 80 for increasing the women’s race distance to be equal to the current men’s distance of 12k (9 former world team members)
– 35 for meet in the middle and have both men and women race 10k. (6 former world team members)
– 2 for men & women racing 8k. (1 former world team member)
Same race or separate start for men and women at USA CHAMPS:
– 34 for same (2 previous world team members)
– 96 for separate (16 previous world team members)
Number of selection races for world team:
– 70 for one race and 100% auto-spots (11 previous world team members)
– 8 for 100% resume selection (1 previous world team member)
– 35 for 2 selection races (5 previous world team members)
– 2 didn’t answer
If one US team selection race for the world championships, where should it be held:
– 11 for always in the East (1 previous world team member)
– 7 for always in the West (1 previous world team member)
– 17 no preference (4 previous world team members)
– 93 for rotate each year between West and East (11 previous world team members)
– 2 didn’t answer (1 previous world team member)
IF a proposal for equal distances for men & women were to be presented to the WMRA Council for the WMRC, what race distance would you support?
– 5 for no change (none on previous world team)(1 woman / 4 men)
– 3 for 8K (1 previous world team member)(1 woman / 2 men)
– 31 for 10K (4 previous world team members)(18 women / 13 men)
– 79 for 12K (13 previous world team members)(25 women / 54 men)
– 12 for longer than 12K (none on previous world team)(5 women / 7 men)
IF a proposal for equal gender representation were to be presented to the WMRA Council what team allocation would you support for the WMRC? Note that an increased overall team size could result in less funding per athlete. Currently only 6 men & 4 women can be entered in the WMRC.
– 6 prefer 4 women & 4 men (a reduction of 2 men)
– 46 prefer 5 women & 5 men (an increase of 1 woman and decrease of 1 man)
– 72 prefer 6 women & 6 men (an increase of 2 women)
– 6 don’t support changes to the current gender allocations at the WMRC
To show your support for gender equity in sports please visit the following website created by 2011 World Mountain Running Champion Kasie Enman: http://sportsequality.org
Please note the following important issues are beyond the direct control of the US Mountain Running Team (USMRT) staff and the USATF Mountain, Ultra & Trail Running Council: – Equal race distances at the World Mountain Running Championships (WMRC). Current distances are codified in the World Mountain Running Association (WMRA) constitution. Changes would have to be approved by representatives from the 40+ member federations at the annual WMRA Congress meeting. – Equal representation of men’s & women’s team. Currently only 6 men & 4 women can be entered to race at the World Mountain Running Championships (WMRC). Changes would have to be approved by representatives from the 40+ member federations at the annual WMRA Congress meeting.
“Both the senior men’s and women’s races at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships will now be 10km
Senior male and female athletes are to now race over 10km at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships, with the standardisation of the of the distances confirmed in the IAAF Competition Rules 2016-17.
The senior men’s race had previously been 12km and the senior women’s 8km at the biennial event, but there had been calls for gender parity, with the sport’s world governing body also recommending that similar distances be used for other international and national competitions.