The acceptance of in-line skaters in this year’s Los Angeles Marathon has some angry detractors. They’re calling the inclusion of these quintessentially Californian competitors an undignified affront to tradition, a spectacle that will drive elite runners away, another sideshow to what should be a pure runners’ race. What a familiar refrain.
In the 1960s, women were the outcasts. “We were advised not to run long distances for health reasons and they did not want us in the marathons,” remembers Gayle Olinekova, ranked third in the world among female marathon runners in 1979. “I still remember leading a race in Florida and hearing spectators shout, ‘Stop! Think of your future children!’ ”
Later, purists didn’t want wheelchair athletes because their participation had nothing to do with footracing. Now, it’s an odd marathon that does not include wheelchair athletes. In fact, it’s the inclusive nature of marathons (with blind runners, bicyclists and walkers) that has boosted interest in these events.
As usual, some parts of the runners’ marathon course will be used by all participants, but at different times. Organizers should have no problem keeping the skaters away from the wheelchairs and the bicycles from the paths of the runners.
Besides, things could be worse. Just wait until the skateboarders and windsurfers hear about this.