It’s no secret to anyone with even the flimsiest knowledge of distance running that the top end of the sport is dominated by African athletes. Perhaps with a dominance unique amongst all sports.
But is this virtual monopoly of almost every major race good for the health of sport?
On the surface, distance running appears never to have been in better health. Ironically, participation in road running is at an all time high. Big 40,000+ races like the Chicago and Berlin marathons sell out in hours. The London marathon could fill its ballot places ten times over. Even local races now fill up six months in advance. A million people will line the streets of London in April as they always do in New York and elsewhere.
But ask yourselves what is it that raises the interest? Mostly for the participants it is for their own running ambitions or charity fundraising. For the spectators it is the colour and the carnival, and to support friends and family who are taking part. Few have even the slightest interest in who wins. In other words, these races are popular as mass participations events, not as sporting contests. The TV people are far more interested in the human interest, charity and celebrity angle when there is only an African interest at the sharp end. They reflect the public perception of the anonymous African presence and swiftly divert their attention elsewhere.