Organisers of athletic events in T&T such as the UWI Spec International Half Marathon and the T&T International Marathon are being heavily being criticised by locals and other Caribbean athletes for the standard of international runners being invited for these events.
However Diane Henderson, a chief organiser of the T&T International Marathon is instead calling on local and regional runners to embrace efforts being made to improve their times at races and do their part. Yesterday Guyana's Kevin Johnson and Lionel Dandrade who are resident runners here in T&T have expressed the view that consideration must be made for the caliber of international runners who are invited here for major road race events, to be dropped.
They feel the standard of international runners being invited is preventing local runners from capitalising on the prizes available. In fact Johnson whose best finish at the UWI half marathon was sixth in 2011, said he considers it a major disrespect to local runners.
"If they want to bring in competition for the local runners then organisers need to look for runners whose times are between one hour and 14 minutes to one hour and 15 minutes. Instead they have been bringing in athletes clocking times like one hour and two minutes etc which has been more demoralising for the T&T runners" Johnson said.
For many years international runners have dominated events such as the then Clico International Marathon to the T&T international marathon to the UWI Spec Half marathon to all other small events such as the Butler Classic, Ventures Credit Union 5k, Bankers Insurance 20k to the Air Bon Sonics 5k among many other events.
For these events runners such as Kenyan Kennedy Rotich and Philip Lagat, Brazil's Chavez Da Silva, Mary Akor (Nigeria), Caroline Kiptoo (Kenya), Cruz Nonata Da Silva (Brazil) and Lineita Madeus Rojas (Colombia) have not only made their mark on local soil but have won some of the main cash prizes available.
Johnson, who now admits that he does not really look forward to the UWI Spec International Half Marathon or the T&T Marathon told Guardian yesterday "Once the local runners see a foreign runner who clocks 1:02 minutes then they tell themselves they have to try and settle for the best position after them. We have been seeing it for years now" Johnson said.
He added "In fact I feel sorry for the T&T runners because the prizes available become out of their reach with the class of the international runners that have been invited. And to make my point, at the Bankers Insurance event that was held recently, I finished sixth behind the international runners and all the other local runners finished after me, so I felt bad for them" Johnson explained.
His country man Dandrade said it is difficult to win the UWI half marathon or the T&T International marathon or any other race with the type of international runners they are bring here. Meanwhile Johnson and Dandrade also took a swipe at the prize structure for the UWI half marathon and called on organisers to increase the prize monies if the event is to survive. The outspoken Johnson said the prize monies have been the same from since inception and people who participate in road race event for a living could be turned off by that.
Johnson said "the cost of living has been going up each year but the prizes for the uwi half marathon has remained the same.
This is the reason why I do not focus on that race because I would usually go abroad which cash incentives are more attractive but I think organisers of the uwi event should consider increasing their prizes for all categories."