At every World Championships since the 2001 edition in Edmonton, Canada, organisers usually set aside a free morning for a media 800 metres race.
This traditional race amongst journalists covering the championships is basically so that they can have a feel of the competition track and conditions at the championship venue.
“Since Edmonton, the media race has really helped create good working relations between media and event organisers,” London 2017 press chief Jayne Pierce explained on Friday as we took a look at the results.
Never mind the fact that there was a ‘DNF’ (Did Not Finish) next to my name on the results sheet. This was because I withdrew, largely due to a recurring injury, but partly to avoid the indignity of being lapped by fellow colleagues who ran like championship athletes.
The overall winner was Ireland’s Cathal Dennehy who clocked an amazing one minute, 54.42 seconds which would have been a national record in East Timor or El Salvador.
One of my colleagues, Evelyne Watta, was a star in this race at the 2013 championships while another, athletics guru Mutwiri Mutuota, currently the chief scribe on SportPesa’s digital platforms, failed to start at several previous championships – save for the Daegu edition in 2011 - for fear of the strict World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) post-competition tests.
Because miraa (khat), which Mutuota, coming from Meru, naturally partakes of, contains cathine, a stimulant that’s on the list of Wada’s banned substances.
I also pulled off midway my heat on Thursday to avoid the scrutiny of Wada who had threatened to carry out post-race tests to journalists who competed and finished the race.
In fact, I was staring at a two-year ban having consumed copious amounts of beer the previous night. Alcohol is not good for an athlete, and this showed in my below par run that had London 2017 medics on high alert.
I was quickly ushered to the post-race media area by dedicated IAAF deputy director of communications, Anna Legnani, where four-time world long jump champion Dwight Philips, now a seasoned commentator, was ready with his microphone for the live interview in which I described the genesis of my injury in great detail.
Nonetheless, it was a great experience having a feel of what our athletes go through in competition, and also an awesome gesture by the organisers that also helps journalists appreciate athletics more.
Many of the journalists here are former athletes which partly explains Dennehy’s 1:54.54 which was closely followed by a 1:57.54 by fellow Irishman Feidhlim Kelly’s 1:57.80 with another Irish writer, David Gillick, squeezing into the top five with 2:01.29.
I wonder what these Irishmen are on! Guinness or Irish whiskey perhaps?
Wada is yet to issue a statement after these mind-boggling times. But, seriously, the media race is something local meet organisers should consider in order to excite journalists’ interest in the sport.