Back in 2007 the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) implemented a labelling system for road races held around the globe. In order to achieve a gold, silver or bronze label, events, including marathons, must meet certain requirements to achieve premier status.
While only two Canadian marathons have ever achieved a silver ranking—the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon and the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon— organizers for both are hoping to claim a gold ranking soon. What does this gold label really mean? iRun spoke with John Halvorsen, race director of the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon, for his take on achieving the gold label and why it’s not only important to the events but also to the sport of running in Canada.
iRun: What does the gold ranking signify?
John Halvorsen: It’s the ranking of the event for athletes—including elite runners—and spectators which confirms that within the IAAF, the races are meeting the criteria of a sanctioned event. The recognition that your event has met the requirements is an official part of the sport, which is important to many people.
iRun: How are the standards applied to each ranking?
JH: As you go up from bronze to silver to gold, the standards to qualify become more difficult to meet, such as the quality of competing runners, a diversity of runners from different countries. There are some differences of opinion in that the labeling system should not be universally applied across the board because some criteria are more difficult to meet in certain parts of the world, specifically related to television coverage.
iRun: What has been the benefit for the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon?
JH: Attracting athletes of a certain (elite) caliber. We’ve developed and achieved a level of competition from a results perspective. Having runners see the caliber of athletes and what they’ve achieved says that it’s a well- organized, well-supported event and they want to come run it. Being on the IAAF website continues to keep us on the radar of agents and runners.
iRun: How does the labelling system affect elite runners versus everyday athletes?
JH: From an elite runner’s perspective, it’s the degree of acknowledgment that they’re competing in an event that’s at a very high standard internationally. For non-elite athletes,
I’d say the effect is very little because most people aren’t aware of the standards. Achieving the gold label is a way of educating people. I think gold would cause people to ask, “what does it mean?” and more people would be talking about the sport.
iRun: Where do you hope to see the IAAF labelling system moving?
JH: Leverage the program to promote the sport in each market, which means you apply the requirements in each area a little differently: Asia versus North America versus Europe, because the markets are different from each other. The sport of running is not as prominent in certain areas, and that causes one to think “How can we make the sport more prominent?” and “How can we leverage what we have to the labelling standards that exist?” I think they’ve moved in this direction, and I hope they continue to because I believe that is what’s best for the sport.
iRun: Why would
the gold label be important for the sport in Canada?
JH: I believe the purpose is to enhance the sport in the community. Labelling events that are the best in the country is the best way to declare that they’re world-class events in the sport of running.
For more information on the IAAF labelling requirements check out iaaf.org.