The Lunatics are Ruining the Asylum (the fight against idiotic athletics officialdom)

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Picture a new runner who has just discovered the joy of running. They’ve gone from being a couch potato to struggling through a 5km parkrun to running a comfortable parkrun every Saturday morning. They are proud of their progress and look forward to a new challenge by entering the Firgrove 15km in Constantia, Cape Town. This is the furthest that they have ever run and, at the start line, they are not even sure that they’ll make it. As they near the finish, dreams of entering a half marathon and maybe even Cape Town Marathon later that year fill their head. They cross the finish line with a broad smile, the pain of sore legs disappears with the exultation of the runner’s high and the endorphins of achievement course through their blood.

Then, all of a sudden, it all comes crashing down when some prick with a badge and an orange vest starts obnoxiously shouting that you are disqualified for violating a rule you knew nothing about. How many social runners that bear the brunt of antisocial refereeing are lost to the sport of road running?

On the 2nd of February, Petrus Campher, a Western Province Athletics (WPA) race referee took it upon himself to vigorously enforce draconian ambush marketing rules at the Firgrove Spartan Harriers 15km. Campher’s bewildered finish line victims were predominantly temporary licensed athletes who were wearing regular fitness clothing that one would buy from Sportsman’s Warehouse or Mr. Price. Campher was described by those affected as “condescending and rude” and “relishing his power trip”.

Petrus Campher tried to disqualify temporary licensed runner, Clinton van Thunder, under ambush marketing rules for wearing this faded Adidas logo on a 5-year old shirt (the logo is roughly the size of a R5 coin).

It seems that the irate face of race referees and loud shouting at athletes transgressing any of the myriad of rules within the 176-page Athletics South Africa (ASA) Domestic Competition Rules is a feature on the Cape Town road running scene. Whilst it is tempting to make Campher the Nurse Ratched of this particular Cuckoo’s Nest, that would be disingenuous*. This article explores why the incident occurred, what is happening in other parts of the country and future plans to ban runners who sew Comrades finishers badges and permanent numbers (from any race) onto their running vests.

* Whilst I completely disagree with Campher’s application of the athletics rules and his obnoxious communication style (which seems to be notorious at Western Cape races), it worthwhile pointing out that Campher does put a lot back into the running community and spends a large portion of his free time coaching athletes free of charge. Humans are nuanced creatures.

An eyewitness account from Michael Obery. The good news is that Michael was seen giving Petrus Campher a hug as a sign of reconciliation at another race a few weeks later.

To the credit of Western Province Athletics (WPA), an apology (in the form of an article in Mitchells Plain community newspaper, The Plainsman as well as an email to local clubs) was quickly forthcoming from WPA President Farouk Meyer and none of the dress code violations resulted in actual disqualifications. Problem solved, case closed, move along, nothing to see here. Or is there?

The week after Firgrove, I received the forwarded WhatsApp below from a reputable source stating that “Comrades Finishers Badge is not allowed on runners vests/t-shirts because it is not part of the registered attire of clubs”. The message then lists rule 25.2 of the 176-page ASA rulebook and concludes, “technical officials will be on the lookout to disqualify athletes who don’t comply.”

WhatsApp message stating that technical officials should start disqualifying runners that have a Comrades finishers badge sewn onto their running vest.

I replied asking where he got the message from as this was clearly a hoax. Unfortunately, he was right and I was wrong. The message is legitimate and comes from the technical officials WhatsApp group and was also shared on a Free State Athletics (AFS) group. The author of the WhatsApp message is Enoch Skosana who is the Chairperson of Athletics South Africa (ASA) and Athletics Gauteng North (AGN) Road Running but we’ll get to him later.

As luck would have it, I was in Bloemfontein that weekend for the Kloppers Marathon and, after crossing the finish line, marched off for a friendly chat with the race referee, Mphutlane Modibedi. Modibedi confirmed the message had been sent to all the AFS technical officials but said that he was not enforcing it at the race. He was aware of what had happened the previous week at Firgrove but said that despite a push from above for the strict policing of club kit and ambush marketing rules, he had not disqualified anyone at the race for wearing the wrong clothes.

Modibedi seemed pragmatic saying, “My job is to ensure fair play amongst the athletes.” I think this is a great attitude but that is just part of the job as it only applies to those competing for prize money. The other 99% of the field just want a race that is safe, enjoyable, well-organized and free from unnecessary stress.

A couple of weekends after my trip to Bloemfontein, I was in Limpopo for the Mapungubwe Marathon. Once again I made a bee line for the race referee, Theo Sekete, directly after the race. Sekete also confirmed that the “no Comrades badges on running vests” decree was accurate but that he was not enforcing the ruling “yet”. He said that they would have to have a meeting amongst the Limpopo athletics officials and communicate the change to all the athletics clubs before they started enforcing it.

This was the same response I got from Central Gauteng Athletics (CGA) referees, it’s not a case of ‘if’ but ‘when’. I asked the chief referee at a recent race whether he thought the enforcement was sensible and he coyly laughed and made the ‘my lips are sealed’ gesture.

In between my Free State and Limpopo marathons, I was in KwaZulu Natal for the Capital City Marathon but here the technical officials as well as KZNA President Steve Mkasi were oblivious to the communication. Rather strange that the province that hosts the Comrades Marathon is the only one that is unaware of this manoeuvre. Similarly, the Comrades Marathon itself was completely blindsided when I approached them about this decree.

Whilst the WPA issue was swiftly resolved and more pragmatic race referees in most provinces have chosen not to strictly enforce dress code violations, runners in one of the smallest athletics provinces, Griqualand West, have recently felt the full force of the fashion police. In the comments of one of my Facebook posts, Thaemese Koena Mokoena was named as the referee keeping the official finisher numbers at Kimberley races at record lows. Mokoena declined to answer my questions and referred me to Athletics Griqualand West (AGW).

The official AGW account also replied to one of my Facebook threads to the effect that AGW technical officials are ‘just applying the World Athletics (WA) and Athletics South Africa (ASA) rules and that those arguing against disqualifying runners for wearing branded clothing are coming from a point of ignorance’. The AGW Facebook account referred my detailed questions to their admin@agw.co.za address which I duly emailed but, well over a week later, and despite sending follow-up emails no reply has been forthcoming.

Still waiting for a response from AGW to have my ignorance cleared up.

Radio silence is par from the course from ASA and provincial athletics unions. Whether you are a fully paid-up licensed runner, a passionate blogger or a professional journalist, getting a reply any of the official channels is more difficult than running a sub-2-hour marathon.

Recently my own club, Fourways Road Runners, wanted to get new kit made. The club secretary contacted Central Gauteng Athletics to verify that the design was within the rules. After a number of follow-ups, the eventual reply was simply to forward the 176-page ASA rulebook (and all subsequent requests for clarification went unanswered). The new Fourways kit has recently arrived, let’s just hope our new gear does not fall foul of an overzealous fashion policeman.

Similarly, I sent a message to info@wpathletics.co.za (address obtained from the contacts section of the official WPA website) to request clarifications from the Firgrove furore as well as contact details for Petrus Campher and Farouk Meyer. It’s still crickets from the official WPA channels but via some sleuthing I did manage to track down both Campher and Meyer.

Campher, whose Facebook profile picture has him appearing alongside a tiger (some serious alpha male vibes going on there), declined an interview so I was unable to pin the tail on the tiger. However, he did leave me a couple of voice notes. It is clear that Campher does not think that he did anything wrong at Firgrove. In a 90-second voice note ‘check the rules’, ‘read the rule book’ and derivatives thereof are mentioned over a dozen times. His concluding statement was, “So ja, the rule book is the answer brother.”

Petrus Camper’s Facebook profile picture. The lion might sleep tonight but the tiger roars at temporary licensed runners in the morning.

Whilst Campher is technically correct, hiding behind the rule book like a traffic officer behind a bush at the bottom of a steep hill when the speed limit has just dropped to 60 is a total cop out. The dress code rules are totally unimplementable and impractical in their current form. And, just like a traffic cop, race referees should consider whether their primary purpose is to ‘catch people speeding’ or ‘make the roads a safer and more pleasant space for everyone’.

Gary Britz highlights some of the problems with the current rules as well as selected enforcement and understanding from officials.

If you were to strictly enforce every rule in the book you would end up disqualifying the majority of the field at every event. The World Athletics rules, the gospel from which the ASA rules are derived, were never meant to be implemented for (and in most of the world are not applied to) recreational athletes. They were meant for elite athletes at big money events where sponsors have paid millions of dollars for advertising and branding rights. On top of this, most (well over 90%) of the WA rules are applicable only to track and field events*.

* A general observation I’ve made over the years is that if you give a man a badge and a rule book, his IQ immediately drops by 50 points (I have not observed this trait in women).

This is the ASA rule that Campher was trying to enforce with henchman-like ferocity at Firgrove. There is no equivalent World Athletics rule.

World Athletics does not have any rules about temporary license athletes. They do have a rulebook for clothing and accessories, “Marketing and Advertising Regulations Clothing & Accessories – World Athletics Series events“. You don’t have to be a genius to deduce the scope of the application from the title (read, “World Athletics Series events”, for the intellectually challenged administrator).

Within this document the only reference to “neutral” clothing is for athletes from countries who are barred from competing (like Russia because of their doping violations) and the rules are focussed on not displaying the country’s flag rather than on clothing branding.

World Athletics for clothing worn by neutral athletes.

There is one mention in the WA rule books of unbranded clothing. Once again, the scope of this rule is meant for national teams competing at World Series events whose countries are unable to provide national kit for whatever reason. Ironically, the rule states that athletes can wear their own personal branded clothing provided logos are within the defined sizes.

The only reference to unbranded clothing in World Athletics states that this is permitted within defined parameters.

Road running is a bit of an afterthought in the WA’s Official ‘Competition Rules & Technical Rules’. The specialised rules pertaining to “Road Races” start at page 157 of the 167-page document (which is 10 pages shorter than ASA’s rule book). The “Road Race” rules and guidelines run for a curt four pages and are clearly meant only for application to elite athletes at World Label events.

No disrespect to Spartan Harriers but I don’t think the Firgrove 15km quite fits into the scope any of WA’s categories for Marketing and Advertising.

An example would be a selection of refreshment tables rules that I have screen capped below. There is no road race in the country that complies with the regulation for the full field. A race like Cape Town Marathon (which is a World Label event) does comply for the elite runners only.

WA rules on refreshment tables. Like the other WA rules, clearly these were meant for elite athletes only.

Furthermore, WA’s “Marketing and Advertising Rules” make it clear that they were only meant to apply to World Rankings* competitions and, even in that case, are only mandatory for a very small subset of international events like the Diamond League. I suspect that World Athletics would be horrified if they knew how their rule book was being brandished in South Africa.

* A technical expert who reviewed this article prior to publication pointed out that an amendment to WA rules was made in 2023 where any race measured by an official WA measurer on the official ASA calendar can apply to be a World Ranking race (but they would almost certainly be at the WA’s lowest ranking level). There are provisions within the ASA handbook to distinguish ‘elite contenders’ from recreational runners but this has never been applied and attempts to apply it have been resisted by team managers from elite clubs in the past.

Applying these rules pedantically* at your average weekend club organised event is idiotic. It serves no purpose and is solving no real problem. It does however create a lot of problems. It unnecessarily gives the organising club a bad name. Most runners do not see the difference between the race referee and the organising club. In the case of Firgrove, Spartan Harriers have been at pains to clear up this misconception on social media, “None of these disqualifications were by our Club or Race Organisers, this is a WPA official issue. So it’s unfair to tag and blame the Race.” It’s also not good for the sponsors (and potential sponsors) to have poorly officiated events and the resultant post-race controversy. Most of all it’s not good for the sport.

* And if we were to, almost every race fails WA rule 55.8.1 at the start line, “Water and other suitable refreshments shall be available at the start and finish of all races.”

Local Western Cape running legend Wietse van der Westhuizen says it a lot more succinctly that I do – draconian rules are killing the sport and chasing away new runners.

When it comes to refereeing there is always the letter of the law versus the spirit (or intent) of the law. In the case of the 176-page ASA handbook there are many rules that are archaic, dating back to well before PW Botha’s attempted Rubicon crossing. Even many of the ‘newer laws’ are out date – the document was last updated on 23 June 2019*. Many other rules have been misapplied or misinterpreted. An example is the “no headphones” rule which is stated as being a “safety rule” whereas WA brought it in to prevent elite athletes being coached during an event.

* There is updated 2023 – 2024 draft version but a vote to approve is failed in November 2023.

Let’s switch sporting codes to get some insight from Nigel Owens, the most capped rugby referee of all time, on the art of refereeing, “The easy part of refereeing is picking up the law book and learning the rules. The difficult part of refereeing is knowing when not to blow the whistle. If you get the balance right of applying the laws when they need to be applied, but also knowing when you don’t need to apply them, then you can help contribute to the flow of the game.”

Whilst I could only get a few miaows from our tiger, WPA President Farouk Meyer was happy to answer all the questions I put to him. Farouk inherited a largely broken athletics administration in the Cape and, by all accounts, has done an excellent job of getting the association back on track.

He confirmed that he was present at the Firgrove race and was pulled into the post-race discussions. He clarified that no one was actually disqualified on the day but only cautioned. He acknowledged that the manner in which the race referee communicated with runners was not acceptable, that a race official should never shout at an athlete, that they had had a meeting after the race and that Campher had received ‘counselling’.

Farouk Meyer, President of WPA (photo from LinkedIn).

Meyer also confirmed, “We have never ever in the past disqualified temporary licensed runners [for wearing branded clothing] even though it’s written on the race entry. The officials have been very lenient. We understand that people buy active gear and these have the manufacturers logo on them.”

Meyer also confirmed my question, “Was there any pressure from the race sponsor to strictly police for ambush marketing?” with a hard “No”. However, I could not get a straight yes or no to my question, “Do you think the dress code rules are sensible or should they be updated / removed?” but Meyer did concede, “These days you can’t buy running kit without branding. There must be some leeway.”

The official WPA website currently falls foul of World Athletics Marketing and Advertising rules on sports betting.

In a twist of irony, especially if one wants to be pedantic about the application of athletics rules, the official WPA website includes banner advertising for a sports betting company which violates World Athletics rules. Rule 1.7.9 of the WA’s “Marketing and Advertising Rules” clearly states, “Marketing of any Betting and Gambling products and services are prohibited, unless specifically approved in writing, following consultation with the Athletics Integrity Unit, by the Chief Executive Officer or their nominee.” This rule is the reason that HollywoodBets Athletic Club changed their name to Hollywood Athletic Club. The only way this advertising faux pas could get any more ironic would be if the WPA’s banner advertising was for Grandwest Casino*.

* I showed the sports betting banner advertising to Farouk Meyer during our discussion. He was not aware of it and said he would be getting it removed.

I have tried and failed on several occasions to contact the man at the top of ASA Road Running, Enoch Skosana (most recently to get information on the relaunched City to City 50k for my monthly marathons article). I was therefore pleasantly surprised to get a call from Skosana three minutes after sending him a WhatsApp saying that I’d like to chat about the application of dress code rules in road running.

Enoch Skosana, Chairperson of ASA Road Running, addressing the media at the South African half marathon championships in 2023 (photo from Facebook).

After my 80-minute discussion with Enoch Skosana and having listened to the voice notes from Petrus Campher several times, I believe that they are both men of conviction. I believe that they both truly consider their viewpoints and actions to be correct and appropriate. I believe that both the foot soldier and the kingpin think that the vigorous policing of running outfits is in the best interests of the future of road running. And that is what really scares me.

Although he was unaware of the Firgrove furore, Skosana confirmed, “Yes, there has been an instruction to police this [the dress code rules] a lot stricter but the referees have not been doing their job. We want our sport to be professional but people are not taking our sport seriously according to the rules.”

He highlighted that there is a constitution that every club agrees to when the club is started which includes stipulations about the size in centimetres for the name, logo and sponsorship on the club kit. I ran a scenario past him as to whether I should be disqualified for picking the wrong shorts out of my cupboard in the dark of the morning and running in black pants when the constitution has my club registering blue pants, “There is no excuse. You should be disqualified”. He elaborated further, “If your club is not sponsored by Nike you need to remove the marketing [from your running shorts]. You cannot run in Nike shorts.”

When I suggested that the dress code rule would be impossible and impractical to implement* he responded, “We should bold the rules on the flyer and educate the clubs.” and “Quorum is very important.”

* Here’s a nice example of an elite rule impractical to apply at other levels: WA rule 55.9 states, “An athlete may leave the marked course with the permission and under the supervision of an official, provided that by going off course they do not shorten the distance to be covered.” Makes sense when Eliud Kipchoge needs a bathroom break during the Berlin Marathon but impractical if I need to find a friendly official to accompany me into the bushes the next time my breakfast finishes processing midway through a marathon. It is easy to take any rule out of its intended environment and make it ludicrous.

I asked Skosana, himself a former elite runner who represented South Africa ten times, whether there should be a different approach for elite athletes and recreational or social runners, “The rules are not all about the elite. The rules are for everybody. A rule is a rule. At the end of the day people are seeing the marketing. You are marketing the brand. It doesn’t matter if you are running at the back.”

I asked several questions about the difference between branding and marketing. I don’t believe that Skosana sees any distinction, “If you brand something on your t-shirt then you are promoting something. Those people promote.”

So what is the difference between branding (which is completely acceptable to WA or within any sporting code for that matter) and ambush marketing? Branding is buying active wear at a retail store with a manufacturers logo and wearing it while I go shopping, mow the lawn, go for a training run or participate in an organised road race. Receiving a finishers badge after an ultra marathon and proudly sewing it onto my club best to show off to my fellow runners, that is also branding.

Wearing an Adidas cap at the Comrades marathon when they have Reebok as their apparel sponsor is also not ambush marketing (despite enforcement of this several years ago). Creating a brand so powerful that people will get the logo tattooed* on their body, that too is branding.

* In actual fact, WA Rule 24.20.1 states, “No body markings/body paint except if provided by the Organizers in accordance with the applicable IAAF advertising rules may be displayed anywhere on the body of the participant.” so maybe you will have to cover up your Comrades or Ironman tattoo in future.

A selection of Comrades runners with their Comrades tattoos (all photos supplied).

Ambush marketing would be if Spar are sponsoring a race and Checkers arrive at the start, handing out Sixty60 caps to participants or if Nedbank bought 1000 entries for the ABSA Challenge and press-ganged temporary license runners to run in Nedbank kit. If Comrades paid runners to get a Comrades face tattoo before Two Oceans then that too would be ambush marketing.

Should a road running event create enough media and corporate interest to warrant a real ambush marketing attack, then that would be a great problem to have. It’s never going to happen at low-key community event like the Firgrove 15km. Even before Covid, most races, including the Comrades Marathon, have struggled to attract and keep sponsors. Road running is currently a party with a very short guest list. Having a few corporate gate crashers would be a nice problem to need to enforce.

Whilst overall exercise trends have increased 15% since Covid, road running numbers at organised events are still well below the pre-Covid numbers. Unfortunately road running is a minor sport in South Africa, otherwise athletics administrators would regularly feature on the back page of the Sunday Times as ‘Mampara of the Week’. Even the fate of the national men’s and women’s waterpolo team (who were withdrawn from the Paris Olympic Games as “they are not realistic medal contenders”) received a lot more press coverage than the administrative bungling that led to 5 of the 8 athletes selected for the 50k World Champs being stranded at the airport.

In the case of the 50k World Champs debacle, both the men’s and women’s team would almost certainly have podiumed (calculated as the sum of the fastest three runners) and we would have had an excellent chance of returning with the gold medal in both events. The women’s world title went to Carla Molinaro representing Great Britain. Adele Broodryk was one of the South African athletes who should have been at the World Championships in India. A few months beforehand, Broodryk finished well ahead of Molinaro at the Comrades Marathon. Who knows what might have been?

In the interview with Skosana, he admitted responsibility for the failure to get a full team to India, putting it down to “technical issues between the India ambassador and South Africa”. I asked him how other countries were able to successfully get a full team to the championships and he replied, “I don’t know how they do it.” Perhaps figuring this out would be a better use of his time rather than trying to control what people wear at road running events.

There are a lot of areas far closer to home that our administrators could better spend their time correcting. Most people would agree that athletics administration in general and within road running specifically is a shambles. My home province of Central Gauteng Athletics (CGA) has still not resolved an issue dating back to 2017 when a forensic audit uncovered that the then CGA President Steven Khanyile had allegedly embezzled a large sum of money from the Soweto Marathon Trust while serving as Treasurer. By all accounts the recent CGA AGM was “poorly run” if you are being kind and a “complete shambles” if you are more blunt.

Another basic service delivery issue is getting the annual permanent license numbers out on time. In the past you would be able to get your new license number as early as November. This year runners were allowed to keep running in their 2023 license numbers until the end of February such was the delay in producing and distributing the 2024 license numbers. Races organised by ASA and provincial bodies are notorious for having race day issues like no water on the route. Throw in the fact that race winners at national championships are frequently disqualified over confusion with running license rules (and the archaic domicilium rule) and you have a nice long list of real issues to solve.

Whilst there are plenty of real problems and issues for those entrusted with growing the sport to address, I could not get a concession from Skosana that any issue was bigger than the policing of license numbers and running kit.

A bit of comic relief from Alec Wainwright – this is what happens when officials blindly implement rules without thinking.

I then switched my questioning to the “no Comrades badge” edict. Skosana confirmed the instruction came from him, “Comrades is a well-known race and people are taking advantage.” What should people do who currently have a Comrades badge sewn onto their running vest? “They have to remove the badge or buy another vest. There is no logic for me to put a Comrades badge on my shirt and then run Cape Town Marathon. If we allow that then we allow people to put other badges on their vest. We can’t allow that.”

A sampling of the the photos I took of badges of honour on the vests of runners at a recent marathon.

I suggested that the Cape Town Marathon organisers would not have any problem with runners having a Comrades badge sewn onto their vest whilst running, “Us at ASA we have a problem [with a Comrades badge on your vest at the Cape Town Marathon]. As a vest rule, you can’t promote Comrades at Cape Town Marathon.”

Skosana confirmed that sewing permanent number badges* from any race was also a complete no-go, “It’s for you to have it, not for you to put in on your shirt. They give it to you to have a memory. They don’t say you must put it on your vest. It’s for your memory, it’s for your own space.”

* I sent a follow-up question to ask whether sewing a South African flag onto your vest would also be a disqualifiable offence. The message has been read but not answered at the time of writing.

Whilst there are moves to pedantically police runners’ tops and bottoms, everything else is fair game. You can’t sew a Comrades badge onto the back of your vest but you can wear your Comrades cap. You can’t have the Nike swoosh on your shorts unless Nike sponsor your club but you can run in Nike socks. And you can still choose to run in whatever brand of footwear you like. ASA’s ‘other apparel’ rule 24.17.5 simply states, “Other attire such as socks, hats, bags, etc. must be branded according to IAAF Rules.”

There are no longer any IAAF rules as they have been subsumed by WA. The WA rules even allow athletes to put their own social media hashtag on their shoes. Once again, it is clear from the wording that WA rules are only meant to apply to national athletes at international competitions.

World Athletics rules on shoes and other apparel (which is clearly only applicable for national athletes at international competitions).

Skosana has a lofty vision for the future of road running, “I want to see road running on the next level. Both for health and community. Road running is a key for our country.” These are worthy ambitions but focussing on unlicensed runners wearing branded clothing and club runners who’ve sewn a Comrades finishers badge onto their vest is not going to get us there. This is like the Minister of Education focussing on neat and tidy school uniforms of his subjects rather than the standard of education or the Minister of Transport asking her traffic officers to pull people off the road if they have a bumper sticker on their car.

The interview ended on a positive note, Skosana did concede that, “We can look at rules that do not link to World Athletics to change them. We can debate and talk and change the constitution to make our sport friendly.” That is exactly what I plan to do in a series of follow-up articles that will do a deep dive into the origins and intent of problematic and unpopular rules. Many of us, myself and most race referees (or so I am told) included, don’t understand the rules properly. I will be enlisting the assistance of an expert to help educate us all and hopefully have those that rules that warrant it adjusted, removed or applied in the context for which they were intended.

Those outside of our running tribe see us as crazy people, mad men and women who voluntarily wake up several hours before dawn to willingly push our bodies to the limit without any hope or intention of ‘winning’. We do it for the simple satisfaction of personal accomplishment. We do it for the camaraderie. We do it because we can – and others can’t or won’t. The roads are our asylum. We want those entrusted with administering the sport to be the sensible ones. No one in their right mind should be pedantically applying draconian rules meant for elite athletes at Diamond League track events to recreational runners at community road running events.

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11 Replies to “The Lunatics are Ruining the Asylum (the fight against idiotic athletics officialdom)”

  1. Thanks for this article, I really enjoyed reading it. Road running should be more accessible, not less. When i started i doing a temp licence for a 10km run already absurd.

  2. Excellent article! I had no idea how ridiculous some of these rules are. Hopefully things get better and we can have more people at races, not fewer.

  3. The whole subject regarding the rules of not having any labels, other than the race sponsor, assuming there is one, is a complete no brainer if applied At ordinary road running level.
    Many clubs have their vests sponsored by Mr Price, Sportsman’s warehouse to name but two, and they will have a small logo containing the sponsors name. If your race issues a race number, you will wear this on the front of your vest, while you carry your licence on your back, which also can carry a sponsors label.
    The only way to fully comply with this ruling, is for the race organisers to provide a full running kit for each race. Ridiculous and totally impractical.
    This can only be done at national or international level, where there is likely to be tv coverage, and the sponcers like to get some additional advertising. There must be some bigger fish to fry, so the referees need to remember this. Regarding running shorts, you will go a long way to find a pair that does not have a Nike or Addidas label on them.
    On a different note, next time you speak to Farouk Meyer, please give him my best regards, he was an old Celtics club mate, and a very fine person. Hopefully he will help to sort out what appears to be a rather over zealous factor within the road running community.
    Echos of Comrades?

  4. Thank you for this article and for representing ALL runners ..It is mind boggling to know how these senior officials couldn’t see and correct these rules for the sake of promoting a healthy life.We cannot allow these officials to kill our love for this sport and must applaud your efforts in engaging them on our behalf.

  5. Interesting article.

    From another perspective: Runners are often provided with race numbers that have sponsors logos on them. Some runners might not want to run around with these sponsors names emblazoned on them. These races then have rights to use your picture on websites, pamphlets etc. Basically, you might be promoting a brand that you do not want any affiliation with.

    While these tigers are busting their asses off trying to ‘clean up the running scene’, it may be prudent to check in with the very people that support them, the athletes, and see what they want.

    Also, I might have qualified as a trail runner this last weekend because I wore colourful clothes on a really long hike. Those guys have no problems with what you wear.

  6. Some rules in the World Athletics and Athletics South Africa rules books date back to a bygone era of strict amateurism in the sport of athletics. Time have changed…

    Top athletes are now often professionals, or at least semi-professional, and they need to earn a living from the sport. However, for most, the prize money is not enough to survive on, so sponsorships and endorsements are needed. Sponsors want an ROI for thier investment, and that’s where logo’s come in.

    Other sporting codes allow multiple logos on kit, because the powers that be realise it is money coming into the sport, which benefits everybody in the long run (pun intended). And yes, it can still be controlled and kept to reasonable and acceptable levels, without athletes or players being turned into a mobile rainbow of advertising logos.

    Perhaps it is time for athletics (including road running) to start thinking in that direction, too, instead of worrying about whether a manufacturer’s logo on a club vest is 3cm or 4cm wide.

  7. Agreed. The rules have always been there, since I started running, around 1980 or so, but they have never bothered to enforce them. So why start now?

  8. Thanks for a very informative article. I am a social runner and love running listening to music. I only use one airpod so I can still hear everything going on. However I have been warned that if I run with music I will be disqualified.

  9. Hello Stuart,Thanks for all the mails To learn about all the different experiences..I see that you have a green no in Comrades,and that you have last run in 2019.Are you now s retired big C runner ? I have been making special Comrades clocks since 1989,and think you deserve one for all your input in road running.I have your running info,and can sort out something for you at no cost,if this is acceptable to you.I live in Ferndale,Randburg,,so it is not a hassle to meet up at some stage.So let me know,,and I will do the necessary.Regards,Leon van Wyk.

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