What an incredible sight the recent UK stages of the Tour de France were. The peloton blurred their way through huge crowds in Yorkshire, Cambridge, Essex and London, creating a colourful spectacle virtually unmatched in the sporting world.
You could not help but be swept up in the beauty of it all, especially if you enjoy cycling like I do. But it did set me thinking. Cycling is something I like. Running is something I love. How much fun would it be if distance running had its own high profile event run on a similar basis to le Tour? It’s unlikely it would ever happen. But let’s indulge ourselves anyway.
Just imagine, Mo Farah and all the world’s great runners competing for three weeks over varying terrain and different distances. Trail stages, mountain stages, road stages over anything from three miles to say 40 miles. We know elite athletes run well in excess of 100 miles in training each week, so why not?
In fact, there would be very little in the format that would need changing for a running version - except of course the distances could not be so extreme. After all, it's a lot quicker on wheels than on foot. But there would still be the King of Mountains, green jersey for the best sprinter, time trials, even professional teams.
Unofficially, the sportswear giants are in competition at the Olympic Games anyway. But the rivalry would really be brought into the public eye with say Team Nike, Team Adidas and Team Puma all competing to have one outright winner. As in cycling, different days of running’s tour would suit different runners. The mountain stages would suit those athletes who specialise in mountain running. Time trials might suit 5000m track runners who can maintain a high speed for a sustained burst. Shorter sprint stages would be designed to suit mile runners.
Think of the drama as Great Britain’s Chris Thompson and Scott Overall lead a break for Mo Farah two weeks into the race? Or Kenya’s 800m superstar David Rudisha being paced in for a sprint finish to try and win a stage? Or mountain runners taking their track rivals into the trenches on super steep climbs. Or old stagers like Haile Gebrselassie saving his energies for a few days and trying to grab a stage win late in the tour?
Who then would be best suited to such an event? Would it be Mo Farah with his world-class range from 1500m to marathon? Would it be specialist marathon runners who can even pace each day no matter the distance? Or could it be someone from the ultra running world who has the overall edge on stamina after days and days of running?
Naturally, unlike cyclists, runners could not do endless six hour days competing. But therein also lies another benefit. It would allow for a women’s event to be run concurrent to it, enjoying the same high profile. Something the Tour de France has not managed.
Of course it would require a massive commercial commitment for a similar running rival ever to be developed. And in the Olympic Games, the sport already has its major shop window. But it’s still fun to imagine. Close your eyes for a moment and visualise Mo Farah beaming his way down the Champs-Elysees as his team cracked open the champagne. Looks great doesn't it?