In a shocking development, 41% participants in Women World Athletics Championships 2019 could not complete the race due to severe weather conditions. Sweltering heat and increased humidity did not allow participants to perform well.
Qatar is organizing different sports and other cultural events to attract the maximum number of visitors to expand its tourism industry. Also, it is Qatar’s way of diplomacy which may help her present a softer image before the world.
As a matter of fact, since the beginning of the competition, there were some reports expressing a danger like this due to expected weather conditions. However, the country went on to conduct the program to attract tourists from across the world.
There's a pop-up hospital beside the marathon finish line. Every five minutes or so, a new athlete arrives on a stretcher. pic.twitter.com/99sljMj3WO
— Cathal Dennehy (@Cathal_Dennehy) September 27, 2019
According to local media, 28 out of 68 women participants could not complete the race on Saturday despite the fact that women’s marathon was organized at midnight.
Interestingly, the race began and ended with a temperature of 32 degrees Celsius (90 degrees Fahrenheit) and 74 percent humidity, a heat index of 107 degrees Fahrenheit.
“It’s like you’re submerged underwater, but the water is boiling, and you’re kind of halfway cooked,” one distance runner said to freelance journalist Cathal Dennehy when describing the conditions.
Who won the race?
The tough competition under severe weather condition was won by Kenya’s Ruth Chepngetich, who took home gold with a time of 2 hours, 32 minutes and 43 seconds to beat out 2017 world champion Rose Chelimo (2:33:46).
It is worth noting that Chepngetich’s winning time of 2:32:43 was more than 15 minutes slower than her 2:17:08 time she ran earlier this year in the Dubai Marathon. More importantly, it was also the slowest winning time in the history of the women’s marathon at the World Athletics Championships.
Qatar is all set to welcome different international players in several sports in the next few months.
Furthermore, it may deserve merit to be mentioned here that back in 2007 race in Osaka, Japan, also saw grueling conditions. The race began at 27 degrees Celsius and 74 percent humidity before heating up and drying out to 32 degrees and 55 percent. Only nine runners were unable to finish in that event.
Marathon generally demands fair weather conditions so that the lives’ of the athletes are by no means at risk.
A marathon in Qatar: A bad idea?
Some analysts believe that it was not a good idea to conduct a marathon in a country like Qatar where the weather is generally hot. Experts believe that the organizers must have remembered that in Doha temperatures sit in the 30-40 degree Celsius range (between 86 and 104 degrees Fahrenheit) every September. It is the first time a Middle Eastern country has ever hosted a World Athletics Championships in such extreme weather conditions.
— Cathal Dennehy (@Cathal_Dennehy) September 29, 2019
Journalist Cassandra Negley noted before the race, “a 2017 New York Times analysis found that fastest marathon times come during cooler days. Going from marathons run in the 40-degree Fahrenheit range to the 70s added four minutes to professional runners’ times. Imagine what a heat index of 107 will do to your system”.
According to some reports, the organizers made all possible efforts to lessen the heat through extra hydration stations and paramedics along the course, with the IAAF medical delegate having the authority to withdraw athletes before and during the race in the event of “severe distress.” But as the subsequent developments have shown, such steps did not work much.
However, prior to the competition, European pole vault champion Armand Duplantis, who trains in the heat of the southern U.S. state of Louisiana, has said that the humidity can prove helpful in practice because the addition of moisture to the chalk on his hands “makes for a really nice grip.”
Qatar is all set to welcome different international players in several sports in the next few months. The country’s political leadership is determined to use sports as a tool to attract the world to visit Qatar and see its cultural richness and civilizational heritage. Despite some criticism owing to the severe weather condition, Qatar is successfully organizing all the events it has announced earlier.
Moreover, the country has announced to organize men’s marathon on Oct. 5.