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Entertaining alternative race formats for the Paris 2024 Olympics

We know these probably won't be included in the Olympics anytime soon, but we can dream

With the 50K race walk dropped from the Paris 2024 program, World Athletics (WA) has the opportunity to suggest a new event format to Olympic organizers. The 50K was cut as part of the IOC’s goal of hosting a completely gender-equal event in 2024, with a 50-50 split between male and female athletes, and WA has now been tasked with creating a mixed-gender event. WA officials have said they plan on organizing a mixed-gender race-walk relay, and with so much still up in the air, it’s fun to think up different options for a new Olympic athletics event. With that in mind, here are a few race formats we’d love to see in future Summer Games (even though they probably won’t ever be included).

Note: We hope WA follows through with its commitment to race walking, as many athletes were extremely disappointed to learn that the 50K was cut from the Olympic program. However, for this list, we’re looking at both race walking and running events, just for the fun of it. We’re also considering events that aren’t mixed-gender, although there would certainly be the chance to hold both male and female races for each. 

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1K repeats 

Canadian Olympic race walker Evan Dunfee took to Twitter following the news of the 50K being cut to suggest a few alternatives for WA to consider. For one format, he said athletes could be tasked with walking 1K repeats until they can no longer hit a certain pace. For the men, this could be four-minute per-kilometre pace and for women it could be 4:30. The winners of the men’s and women’s 20K race walk events at the Rio Games averaged sub-four-minute and sub-4:30 paces, respectively, en route to their victories, so this event could go on for a while. It would be held on a track, and the last athletes standing would take home the gold.

Evan Dunfee
Evan Dunfee races at the Rio Olympics in 2106. Photo via Athletics Canada.

Elimination mile 

The elimination mile is so much fun to watch, and we really think it should be raced more often. Athletes line up to start the race as they normally would, but they have to be prepared to sprint at the end of each lap, rather than saving their legs for a kick at the end of the mile-long race. The last-place runner at the end of each lap is eliminated, slowly cutting the field down until the final lap, when it’s a battle to see who can hold on for the win. This makes for entertaining and drama-filled racing, as every 400m, fans get to see athletes sprint to survive.  

RELATED: Must-watch mile, one runner eliminated each lap in wild sprint

Last runner standing

We know it’s highly unlikely that the IOC would OK an ultramarathon, but a last runner standing event would be really cool to see in the Olympics. Just like Big’s Backyard or the Quarantine Backyard Ultra, this race would see athletes run 6.7K every hour until only one runner remained. This is similar to Dunfee’s idea for the race walk, but longer, and the race format sees athletes run until they either drop out or fail to complete a 6.7K lap within the one-hour time limit. This would also work out well in terms of keeping the Games gender-equal, as this ultra format pits men against women. 

Maggie Guterl at the 2019 Big’s Backyard Ultra. Photo: Instagram

Don’t get lapped

Another one of Dunfee’s ideas was a race in which an athlete’s only aim is to not get lapped. This could work for race walkers or runners, and it would probably be a lot like the elimination mile. Like Dunfee’s 1K repeat suggestion, this format could go on for a long time, but it would certainly be entertaining to watch the top athletes chase down their competitors. 

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Beer mile 

Again, we understand that the IOC will probably never accept the beer mile as an Olympic event, but we can dream. The beer mile is always a fun race to watch, and seeing it on the Olympic stage would make it all the more exciting. It also helps that a lot of Canadians are good at the beer mile, so this would boost our national medal standings.