17 Aug

Doping Cannot Rock Ordinary Runners

Marathon runners

Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in the media frenzy of it all. The recent doping allegations against athletics – particularly the IAAF, the sport’s world authority – can be depressing, if you allow them to be. “Scandal”, “shameful”, “disgrace” – dramatic words from the likes of the Sunday Times that scream for your attention. And of course, they succeed.

It is impossible to ignore. If Olympic medals – apparently many of them – are being won by serial cheats then that has serious implications at the elite end of the sport. But when I read that the sport is in crisis, then I find that wide of the mark.

Of course what happens at the Olympic Games and World Championships is important. Each sport must have its gods and goddesses at its pinnacle, some act as an inspiration for thousands of us mere mortals with the same sport.

But they are not where the real heart and soul of running lies. That can be found in running clubs and groups, at running events and in individual runners everywhere. I love watching athletics and it would disturb me if I learned that most of what I was watching could not be believed. But it is not the reason I run. Far from it.

There has been the odd occasion where a particularly inspiring performance from the likes of Mo Farah, Paula Radcliffe or Jo Pavey might have added a little extra zest to my next run. But it’s not the reason why I began running or continue to run.

Nor is it - I believe - for thousands of my fellow runners. At my local running club, there is no talk of drugs or doping, there’s no sense of collective shame. There’s no wavering in our enthusiasm for getting into the fresh air and pounding the streets together.

We’re not exactly pushing the boundaries of human limits, just nudging our own limited ability along a bit. Dramatic headlines won’t change that and indeed cannot change that. Next week’s Sunday newspapers might well continue with the lurid headlines.

The same morning tens of thousands of people will take part in 10ks and half marathons, some will simply go out for a leisurely jog. All ordinary people doing something great. We, the runners are not in crisis and we are the sport.