Of the 68 competitors that started the women’s marathon at the World Athletics Championships, 28 ended up withdrawing by the end, with at least one runner getting taken away in an ambulance while another was spotted in a wheelchair. The high dropout rate came as a result of terrible weather conditions in Doha, Qatar, where the competition is being held, that weren’t conducive for a successful race. Temperatures throughout the day were so bad that organizers decided to schedule the event at midnight, but even then it was 90 degrees Fahrenheit with 70% humidity. Needless to say, competitors and coaches were pissed, the BBC reports. Here are some of the frustrations from the people themselves.
Ethiopian marathon coach Haji Adillo Roba:
“We never would have run a marathon in these conditions in our own country,” he told BBC Sport.
Belarus runner Volha Mazuronak:
“The humidity kills you. There is nothing to breathe. I thought I wouldn’t finish,” she said.
“It’s disrespect towards the athletes. A bunch of high-ranked officials gathered and decided that it would take the championships here but they are sitting in the cool and they are probably sleeping right now.”
Canadian runner Lyndsay Tessier:
“You see somebody down on the course and it’s just, extremely grounding and scary, that could be you in the next kilometre, the next 500 metres.
“I’m just really grateful to have finished standing up.”
The frustration baked within these comments might also stem from the International Association of Athletics Federations telling competitors that it had “done everything possible to minimize the heat-related risks” and that the race was being run at a level of health risk deemed “acceptable.”
But it was French athlete Yohann Diniz, the reigning world champion of the men’s 50km walk, who pointed out that the IAAF had certainly not done all it could to help competitors. You see, for every other event in Doha, there is a climate-controlled stadium where competitions can be held. The air conditioning keeps things at a nice 73 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit, making for a tolerable environment to hold high intensity events. However, athletes in both the marathon and the 50 km walk are not afforded such luxury, leaving them to deal with the grueling heat.
“I am extremely upset,” [Diniz] said. “If we were in the stadium we would have normal conditions, but outside they have placed us in a furnace, which is just not possible.
“They are making us guinea pigs.”
Of course, not everyone had harsh words about the race and its conditions. Kenya’s Ruth Chepngetich, the ultimate champion of the women’s marathon, seemed to shrug off any suggestion that the weather was an excuse to not finish the race. In fact, the quote she gave afterwards seemed to flex on her competitors in a way that painted them as simply unprepared for what laid ahead of them:
Chepngetich said: “It was a tough race but I knew what to expect as I ran in Dubai.
“I trained for this weather running in the afternoon when the sun was high.”
I’ll go out on a limb and say the runner who won gold likely won’t be first to question the validity of the race she just won.