From London to Paris: Runners campaign for trail running in Olympics – AW

    Relay team tackling London to Paris route hope that trail running can become an Olympic sport

    Runners from across the UK have united in a trail run from London to Paris to campaign for the inclusion of trail running at future Olympic Games.

    Four athletes from running clubs around the nation took off on Thursday (April 11) as they take it in turns to run part of the 455km trail run to France, finishing on April 14.

    Organisers of the campaign, which was launched by outdoor footwear company Merrell, have sent an open letter to representatives of the International Olympic Committee, International Trail Running Association and Brisbane 2032, calling on them to include trail running at the 2032 Brisbane Games – the next cycle when sports can be added to the Olympic programme.

    The sport has been catapulted into the spotlight in recent weeks following the historic completion of the infamous Barkley Marathons by British trail runner, Jasmin Paris who finished the 100-mile event 99 seconds inside the 60-minute cut off time.

    Alongside Paris, fellow Brit Russ Cook made headlines last week as he became the first person in history to run the full length of Africa.

    Joe Page is one of the four runners taking part in the campaign and he believes that the rise in popularity is a key reason as to why now is the right time for the Olympics to take it on.

    He says: “I feel like the Olympics should be aligned with society and with how things are going I feel like running has picked up a lot in the last year, especially trail running which is massive in popularity.

    “There are more races going on now than there ever has been before so I feel like that should be reflected in top level sport. It’s huge at club levels and at a local level so why not reflect it at a bigger stage.”

    Page is the co-founder of the Collective Run Club in Newcastle, a running club set up to help grow ‘social running.’ Page says: “We get 40-50 runners coming down a week at our social running club based in Newcastle and we’ve been out on day trips on big trail runs.

    “Everyone is into it so I feel like I am putting myself forward on behalf of everyone who comes to the run club who would also like to see trail running in the Olympics.”

    Joe Page trail running from London to Paris (Joseph Murgatroyd)

    Trail running has never been seen in an Olympic Games before.

    However off-road running has made an appearance, with cross country featuring at three summer Olympics, with the last race being over 100 years ago at the Paris 1924 Games.

    The historic 1924 race saw a difficult course combined with extreme weather conditions of over 40C and noxious fumes emitted from a power plant near the course. Only 15 of the 38 starters crossed the finish line.

    With the absence of both off-road sports at the Olympics, Page also shows his support for cross country to make its comeback as he tells AW: “You’ve got running distances represented on track and then you’ve also got road running so you’ve already got two disciplines there, so I don’t see why there can’t be a third or fourth in terms of trail or cross country.

    “Road running is completely different to track running, just as trail running is completely different to them two. I feel like the four disciplines of running would work well [at the Olympics] and would represent the whole running community at the amateur level.”

    Among the racers at the 1924 cross country race was Britain’s only finisher, Ernie Harper, who finished just outside of the medals in fourth.

    Harper’s granddaughter, Jan Humphrey, has been supporting the campaign for trail running to now be introduced, as she says it is owed to the competitors of the ill-fated race a century ago to reintroduce running off-road.

    She says: “We continue to derive pride from having an Olympian in the family and still have pictures from his adventure to the 1924 Olympics.

    “Despite missing out on the medals and the testing running conditions, he was incredibly proud to be part of the Olympic movement.

    “He went on to compete in two further Olympics, winning a marathon silver medal in Berlin in 1936. I’ve no doubt he’d be actively backing the campaign to bring trail running to the Olympics in 2032 in Australia where he emigrated and built a family.”

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