His storied portfolio includes the world record for the track 10,000 meters (27:30.80 in 1973); two Olympic starts (with a 12th-place finish at 5,000 meters and a 6th-place in the 10,000 meters at Munich in 1972); and biggest-time assignments in the distance world, as race director of the London Marathon through to 2012; as founder of World Marathon Majors in 2006; principal designer of the London 2012 Olympic Marathon course, and his current assignment as Great Britain’s delegate to the IAAF Road Running Committee.
But, David Bedford, as much as anyone in the sport’s higher echelons, realizes that not everything’s all fun and games these days in the high-stakes world of the long run. Dangers lurk. Some bad guys are knocking at the gates.
Major issues abound, and repercussions of the cancellation of last Sunday’s scheduled ING NYC Marathon, leaving over 47.000 high and dry at the shock decision to scrap the race just 36 hours before the scheduled starting cannon was to fire, are just one of the many dilemmas the sport’s higher-ups - David Bedford most notably included - must prepare to deal with.
(A) With an apparent $500,000 reward as 2012 WMM champion awaiting Kenya’s Geoffrey Mutai as he neared the finish line of the BMW Berlin Marathon back on Sept. 30, training partner Dennis Kimetto, running easily with him in the co-lead as they approached the finish line, did not seem interested in challenging Mutai down to the wire. Kimetto simply appeared to be trotting along, never straining, never appearing to be running all-out in search of victory.
Sure enough, legions of skeptics immediately leaped on the situation.
Had Kimetto beaten Mutai, he knew it might have jeopardized that $500,000 WMM payoff. Needless to say, it could have shredded their training-partner, best-buddy status, as well So with zero going to the number two man in the WMM standings, it seems clearer than ever to many that the WMM’s rewards system needs a major reworking.
Basically put, the sport simply can’t let the outside world think these races are pre-arranged.
Critics weighed in with comments like these: (a) “The integrity of our sport is at stake.” (b) “Strong speculation is that Kimetto let Mutai win.” ( c ) “This was clearly one athlete letting the other one win.”
And David Bedford, on hand in the Big Apple for the pre-ING NYC Marathon festivities, weighed in this way:
“I’ve had several conversations with the agents involved with the athletes and they are pretty adamant that it was not set up, although to many it looked like it was set up.
“I am personally happy to believe that.
“Sometimes it is difficult to judge by the way people look at at a finish, how much effort they are putting in, and figure what the rigors of 26.2 miles have done, “We clearly, as a sport, want races to be totally competitive, we don’t want fixed races. The image we got from Berlin was not particularly helpful.
“ On behalf of World Marathon Majors, we are definitely committed to our sport being perfectly honest and clean and properly competed for.We are aware of the situation, we have had conversations with the people involved. I would also say that we don’t want ours to be a sport where you watch people who are being beaten, who are totally disoriented, who are nackered.
“This is not a show for TV, with a script, etc, etc, It is real life. And in real life, until you have evidence otherwise, you have to give people the benefit of the doubt.” Bottom line, to Bedford: It was what it was. It certainly wasn’t what others thought it was.
Yet with so many dollars at stake, will we see a revision of the WMM’s financial awards table?
‘We are constantly talking about how the whole competition, and the prize structure, and the points work,” Bedford said. “With the addition of Tokyo, it is an opportunity for us to look at all this anew.
“Personally, I believe we would have a stronger competition if the money went deeper. But in order for the money to go deeper, your pockets also have to be deeper as well.
“World Marathom Majors is a young organization made up of very long-established races. We will continue making strides forward to assure that marathon racing and distance running in particular are presented to the public in the best possible way.”
Let us hope.
(B) Then there’s the growing concern with gambling, a perfectly legal endeavor in many nations, including Bedford’s own Great Britain, where punters abound, happy to handle action on many of the sport’s biggest events, the Olympic Games, the World Championships, the biggest of marathons, and many more.
In doing so, they constitute major potential temptation to those inside and outside the sport.
Bedford addresses this hot-potato issue this way:
“According to IAAF rules, gambling and wagering on races is specifically forbidden. Under the circumstances, if we found a situation where an athlete or an agent or an event organizer were found to have done that, the rule in place would deal with that.
“It’s certainly a growing issue and it sometimes can be a very fine line.
“It’s a fine line between serious wagering and, say, five or six race directors watching a race on TV and having a little sweepstake, or guessing what the final time would be.
“Clearly, our job within the sport is to maintain the integrity of the sport. Without that integrity, a sport is not a sport.
“We’ve just seen cycling destroyed by people in it without integrity. And maybe even worse than that, with the collusion of the governing body and the cyclists. That is very, very damaging.
“In our sport, if you saw that gambling was happening, you’d just have to do something about it. Unfortunately, we live in the real world, we know these things are going to continue to happen. But that’s not to say we should give up on striving and fighting to retain the integrity of our sport.
“Be it gambling, be it drugs, be it unfair assistance, we must keep on with the fight against all of them.”
Obviously. And be it resolved that we'll never relent in the fight.
The late Chris Brasher, the 1956 Olympic 3000-meter steeplechase champion for Great Britain, and one of the founders of the London Marathon, once said his inspiration for getting that race off the ground came after his visits to the Boston and New York 26.2-milers,
“To believe this story, you must believe that the human race can be one joyous family, working together, laughing together, achieving the impossible,” he wrote in London’s Observer.
These are the splendid words of idealism keeping this sport running on and on and on.
All well and good, as long as the devious ones, the bad guys, are kept away, far, far away.