By Steve Keating
DOHA (Reuters) – Conditions for the women’s marathon at the world athletics championships will be tough despite a midnight start, the IAAF said on Wednesday as added medical and safety measures were put in place.
The first medal event of the championships is scheduled to start one minute before Friday turns to Saturday local time but there will be no escaping the heat in Doha with temperatures still hovering around 30-40 degrees Celsius with 80% humidity.
So extreme are the expected conditions that there are growing concerns that many of the runners starting the 26.2 miles (42.195 km) race will not finish, creating a controversial start to the first championships staged in the Middle East.
Sebastian Coe, president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and a double Olympic gold medallist, said that athlete welfare was the number one priority but there were no plans to delay the race.
“Of course I want as many people to finish in as good shape as possible and medical teams are going to be very alert to that,” Coe told reporters on Wednesday.
“Heat is not the big issue, humidity is and anybody who has run and competed knows you can deal with heat but humidity is really a challenge.
“We have extra precautions, more medical support, more water but yes it is going to be tough.”
Most of the track and field events will take place at the air-conditioned Al Khalifa stadium but marathon runners and race walkers will have to deal with sweltering heat on the road.
The men’s and women’s 50km walk will start on Saturday at 2330 while the men’s marathon is set for Oct. 5.
“We have to mindful all the time about the welfare of the athletes,” said Coe. “We have a medical team that will monitor these conditions all the time. We have been monitoring it over the period we have been here.
“We do recognise that the road events are the events we need to watch carefully.
“It is simple things like making sure there is more medical supervision out there, there is more water available.
“Our medical teams we are in touch with all the time and I will defer those judgements to them, they are also mindful of the athlete’s welfare.”
(Editing by Christian Radnedge)