World Athletics launches new global road running event, calls for hosts

World Athletics president Seb Coe and his son Harry Coe join hundreds of runners at a bespoke parkrun in London (by Ian Gavan/Getty Images for Vitality).

World Athletics will launch a new global road running event from 2023, calling it the World Athletics Road Running Championships, and is now calling for expressions of interest from cities to host the inaugural competition.

The new event, which was added to the calendar at the federation’s most recent council meeting, will include the existing World Athletics Half Marathon Championships and the world 5km championships as a new event.

The new championships could be expanded in the future to include other distances such as the road mile, and World Athletics indicated it plans to hold mass participation races alongside the elite events to allow recreational runners to take part.

World Athletics chief executive Jon Ridgeon said: “Road running has become an increasingly significant part of our sport over the past 20 years and it deserves greater recognition within our World Athletics Series events.

“The growth in popularity of half marathons, including our own world championships, as well as community 5km events like Parkrun, indicates that there is a need for more high-status road racing events. We also think this will be a commercially desirable concept for host cities, partners and broadcasters.

“With the establishment of the World Athletics Road Running Championships, the whole global community of recreational runners, which numbers in the millions, will be able to come together to celebrate their passion for putting foot to the road.”

World Athletics signalled its ambition to tap into the road running boom when it recently reached an agreement with mass participation business Parkrun to combine resources to grow the sport of athletics and deliver health and fitness benefits to communities around the world.

Under the deal, World Athletics will seek to promote Parkrun, while the latter will leave community health legacies in the host countries of World Athletics Series events by creating a series of permanent Parkruns in the host cities.

In other changes to its global calendar it was announced the World Athletics Cross Country Championships will move from the odd years to the even years in 2024 to align with the Olympic Games.

World Athletics is proposing the inclusion of a cross country mixed team relay for 15 countries in the programme for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.

The opportunity arose to make the switch to even years after the 2021 World Cross Country Championships, to be hosted by Bathurst in Australia, was postponed until early 2022, as a consequence of the international travel restrictions in place due to the pandemic.

The World Athletics Council will confirm Bathurst’s new date at its next meeting in December.

“The pandemic forced our hand in moving Bathurst from 2021 to 2022 but ultimately, this will allow us to make a smooth transition to the even years for our future cross country championships, so we can build momentum towards, hopefully, the return of cross country to the Olympic Games,” Ridgeon said.

The host of the 2024 World Athletics Cross Country Championships has not yet been selected.

The Covid-19 has badly affected the federation and the only World Athletics Series event to take place this year is the World Athletics Half Marathon Championships, to be held in Gdynia, Poland, on 17 October.