Distance Medley Relay at the Olympic Games?

During our coverage of David Rudisha’s stellar 1:41 on the show yesterday evening, we had a listener call in to share his views on what he thought was one the greatest 800 performances he had ever seen.

And given that the U.S. Olympic Trials and, subsequently, the 2012 London Olympic Games, are right around the corner, our conversation with him had naturally arrived at Olympic predictions. One comment led to another, and suddenly, we were in unchartered territory.

Our guest asked, “What do you think of the possibility of a DMR (Distance Medley Relay) at the Olympics?”

At the outset of the show, I was determined to air of all of the best sound bytes we had picked that weekend up from the athletes at the adidas Grand Prix. Yet, as a former middle-distance runner, this was a question that I  wanted to take time to address.

Firstly, if you were to ask me what I think is the most exciting event in track and field, it would be a toss-up between the 1500m/Mile and the 4x400m relay. Why? Four (or 3 and 3/4 laps for the 1500m) laps around the track allows for a beautiful display of both speed and endurance–a battle of both killer instincts and well-executed tactics.

And yes, this does hold true for the 4x400m as well. Don’t believe me? Go back and watch the 4x400m final from the World Championships in Daegu last year. Yes, it takes endurance to run the 400. And yes, American anchor leg LaShawn Merritt was, indeed, using sit-and-kick race tactics while he was sitting in third place.

But what event is the most unique? Putting my bias as a middle-distance runner aside, my answer would still unequivocally be the DMR. In what other event is there such diversity of event disciplines? In what other event would you see a miler and a 400m runner working together?

For those of you who are not familiar with what a DMR is, it is a relay comprised of (in order) 1200m, 400m, 800m, and 1600m legs. For those of you who have never witnessed one, I urge you to do some YouTube surfing.

Largely an event raced at the collegiate level, one can still see an international DMR in “U.S.A. vs. The World at Penn Relays.” Unfortunately, though, that is probably the only professional DMR track and field fans will see all year. Why isn’t this race run more often at the international level? The simple answer is that, at the professional and international ranks, the focus is on the individual athlete.

BUT…

At the Olympics, the focus is on winning hardware for one’s nation. For the old stars and stripes. For king and country. For national pride.

In my humble opinion, there is no better way for a country to claim an Olympic gold medal than by fielding the nation’s FOUR best athletes in a given event and having them work cohesively to earn the title, “Olympic Champion.”

Why wouldn’t the IOC add one more event to the track and field schedule? After all, the IOC, despite their rigid demeanor, seeks to establish the greatest diversity possible in inviting athletes and nations to the Games. Including a an Olympic DMR would result in participation from such countries as Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Qatar, Bahrain, Morocco, and more.

Truly, if increased international diversity and athletic participation isn’t reason enough to add a DMR to the Games, then here is a better reason:

I would like it. A lot.

Our friends at Runner’s World agree as well. Here’s what they have to say about running a Distance Medley Relay at the Olympics.

Happy running,

Greg