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Momentum grows for trail running inclusion at 2032 Olympic Games

Jonathan Turner
News Director
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Today sees runners from across the United Kingdom set off on a trail run from London to Paris to campaign for the inclusion of trail running at future Olympic Games.

This summer’s Olympics marks exactly 100 years since running off-road was an official discipline, with cross-country running the last of its kind at the Paris 1924 Games.

There has already been a 10-year-plan initiated by the Trail Running Association of Queensland (TRAQ) to have trail running included at the 2032 Games in Brisbane.

And now this UK campaign, launched by outdoor footwear company Merrell, sees athletes from running clubs across the nation amplifying that call for Olympic decision-makers to include trail running in the future.

They will run in relay over 455km from London to Paris, arriving in the French capital on Sunday.

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Surge in popularity

The timing could hardly be better, as trail running has become one of the world’s fastest-growing sports, according to the International Track and Field Federation. Millions of people around the world participate in races, events, and recreational runs.

And in the UK, the sport has been catapulted into the mainstream spotlight in recent weeks after British trail runner Jasmin Paris became the first woman to ever finish the infamous Barkley Marathons, swiftly followed by fellow Brit Russ Cook completing an epic achievement of his own by running the entire length of Africa.

Jasmin Paris Andy Jackson
Jasmin Paris (copyright Andy Jackson / INOV8)

Jimi Harrison, a member of the Keep On Keeping On running club and taking part in the London to Paris venture, said: “We feel that new Olympic sports should reflect the trends and popularity of the current day and believe the time has come for trail running to be adopted at future Olympics.”

As part of the campaign, Merrell has penned an open letter to representatives of the International Olympic Committee, International Trail Running Association and Brisbane 2032, calling on them to set the wheels in motion to include trail running at the Olympics when the Games go Down Under – the next cycle when sports can be added to the Olympic programme.

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Going full circle

The century-long wait for an off-road running at an Olympics follows an infamous cross-country event at the 1924 Paris Games in which a difficult course combined with extreme weather conditions of over 40°C and noxious fumes emitted from a power plant near the course, resulted in only 15 of the 38 starters crossing the finish line. After the event, both the Red Cross and local police spent hours searching for runners who had passed out on the course.

Amongst the racers that day was Great Britain’s only finisher, Ernie Harper, who was just outside the medals in fourth place.

Harper’s granddaughter, Jan Humphrey, supports the campaign and believes we owe it to the competitors of the ill-fated race a century ago to reintroduce running off-road at the Olympics.

She explained: “Ernie was a real trailblazer in every sense of the word – he was a natural runner and competitor.

“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.”

Jonathan Turner
Written by
Jonathan Turner
Jonathan Turner is News Director for both TRI247 and RUN247, and is accustomed to big-name interviews, breaking news stories and providing unrivalled coverage for endurance sports.  

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