Takuya Noguchi prevails at the 2017 Gold Coast Marathon (© organisers)
World Athletics released its 2021 Label Road Race calendar today, a schedule comprising 191 races in 49 countries across each of the sport's six areas.
The calendar kicks off with the Osaka Women’s Marathon in the central Japanese city on 31 January and concludes exactly 11 months later, on 31 December with the traditional New Year’s Eve races in Madrid, Bolzano, Italy, and Sao Paulo.
While the schedule remains subject to change given the ongoing uncertainty created by the global coronavirus pandemic, more races are expected to join the Label programme once it is confirmed that they will take place. The number of races is already higher than the 168 events that were granted Label status at the start of 2020.
The slew of postponements and cancellations brought on by the pandemic in 2020, however, also prompted a move this year from a four-tier system of Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze events to a more realistic format better suited to the travel restrictions and ongoing logistical challenges that event organisers will continue to face in 2021.
Instead, a three-tier programme will be used in 2021, comprising three Labels: a World Athletics Label, a World Athletics Elite Label and a World Athletics Elite Platinum Label.
“Road racing organisers have proved to be very resilient and adaptable when faced with the challenges of the pandemic to mass events, as proved by the fact that even more races have joined our Label series this year," World Athletics chief executive Jon Ridgeon said.
“Those challenges remain for now, but we will assist them wherever we can to maintain a strong road-racing calendar in 2021 for the benefit of the professional athletes who rely on these races for income and the mass participation athletes who are encouraged and inspired by the opportunity to test themselves in these events.”
The World Athletics Label is available to all duly-sanctioned road races that have taken place for at least two consecutive years prior to 2021 and hold an international measurement certificate. For first-time Labels in 2021, a World Athletics technical consultant will be appointed to ensure compliance with rules and regulations.
World Athletics Elite Label races must have a prize money structure in place that awards at least the top eight finishers, with minimum winner's prizes of US$ 15,000 (marathons) and $7500 (other distances), per gender.
The World Athletics Elite Platinum Label is only available to races that had been granted Platinum status in 2020, irrespective of whether the race took place or not.
Given the ongoing challenges faced by organisers, the primary goals of the 2021 Label Road Race programme are to continue creating value for race organisers, to encourage investment in elite races and to enable the continuation of World Athletics' efforts to protect the integrity of the sport. To that end, 100 percent of the Label fees in 2021 will be allocated to a dedicated anti-doping programme which began in 2019 and was expanded in 2020.