The 2014 track season may well be behind us, but SPIKES brings you six good reasons why athletics still has plenty to offer for the rest of the calendar year.
1. Asian Games
The track and field programme opens in Incheon on Saturday highlighted by the presence of, arguably, the sport’s star performer this year. Mutaz Essa Barshim enjoyed some gravity defying high jump battles with Bohdan Bondarenko on the Diamond League circuit this year, and now the Qatari – who moved to outright number two in the all-time world rankings with 2.43m in Brussels – aims to secure back-to-back Asian Games titles in Korea.
Only a tantalising 0.02m away from Javier Sotomayor’s world record, can he cap his mega-season by bettering the Cuban’s 21-year-old mark? Olympic triple jump champion Olga Rypakova of Kazakhstan, who missed the 2013 season because of injury, is another of the star names gunning for gold at the Asian Games.
Following the Continental Cup, the Asian Games will be Barshim's final meet of 2014
2. Major Marathons
For many athletics enthusiasts, the highlight of the autumn are the marathon majors of Chicago, New York and Sunday’s race in Berlin – regarded as the world’s fastest marathon. With the past five world records in the men’s marathon set on the course, expectation levels are always at fever pitch that we could be set for something special.
This year Kenyan Dennis Kimetto – the third fastest marathon racer in history (2:03:45) – is the man most fancied to challenge Wilson Kipsang’s world record mark of 2:03:23 set in the German capital 12 months ago.
October’s Chicago Marathon pits former track rivals Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia and Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge up against each other. Meanwhile, Kipsang is up against three former winner of the New York Marathon in a mouthwatering battle in ‘The Big Apple’ in November. A race which also sees two-time world champion Edna Kiplagat up against her fellow African record holder Mary Keitany in a world-class elite women’s battle.
3. It’s wet, it’s wild, it’s muddy: Welcome back XC
For the lovers of the mud and hills, cross country is back later this year, kick-starting with the IAAF permitted cross country event in Burgos, Spain on November 9. With the carrot of the 2015 World Cross Country Championships in Guiyang, China to target next March the world’s elite performers will be looking for some good early season form.
Watch out for defending world cross champions Japhet Korir and Emily Chebet, who should be keen for a pre-Christmas cross country outing. The annual European Cross Country Championships in Samokov, Bulgaria in December also promises to be a crackerjack of a competition.
Mud, glorious mud!
4. Roll out the red carpet, award season's near!
Ball gowns and tuxedos at the ready, the red carpet is laid out for track and field’s biggest stars as the awards season kicks into gear. National and international prizes will be handed out like confetti with athletes from our great sport traditionally faring very well.
The highlight is always athletics’ equivalent of the Oscars, the IAAF World Athletics Gala, staged in Monaco in November. Last year’s winners of the men’s and women’s premier awards were Jamaican sprint duo Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, but who will triumph in 2014?
SAFP and Bolt happy as Larry after winning the 2013 awards
5. Time to try something new
After a long and tiring season, it’s only fair athletes get time to take a break and relax. But not everyone likes to spend their time doing nothing while lying on a beach in the Caribbean, and some prefer to try something a little different in their off-season.
Last year, middle-distance stars Bernard Lagat and Nick Willis starred in the World Speedgolf Championships in the US finishing 25th and 13th respectively.
European 100m bronze medallist Harry Aikines-Aryeetey spent his weekend racing 100m against world pole climbing champion Grant Gallier, who was trying to ascend up a 25m pole in a quicker time, while hurdling heroine Lolo Jones put on her dancing shoes to take part in the latest season of Dancing with the Stars.
6. Inaugural Beer Mile World Champs
Yes, you read correctly. It was announced last month that the event, which over the years attracted hundreds of eager runners to test their talent on the track combined with their passion for the odd cold pint (or four to be precise), will finally see its inaugural world championships take place in December.
Flotrack will be hosting the championship in Austin, Texas on December 3, with the elite field including the likes of 800m world silver medallist Nick Symmonds. The current unofficial world record lies at 4:57, held by James Nielsen, but could tumble in Texas [note, SPIKES in no way encourages heavy drinking in preparation for the event].