"The time has come” – relay team to run from London to Paris to urge Olympic committee to bring back trail running

 Trail runner.
Trail runner.

It's been 100 years since off-road running – today more commonly known as trail running – was included as an event at the Olympic Games and now, a group of intrepid runners wants it back.

The last time cross-country running was included in the Olympics was at the Paris Games on July 11, 1924. Footage from the event, which you can watch below, reveals runners took on a difficult 10k course combined with extreme weather conditions of over 104°F (40°C) and noxious fumes emitted from a power plant near the course. As a result, only fifteen of the 38 starters crossed the finish line. After the event, the Red Cross and local police spent hours searching for runners who had passed out on the course.

These days, grueling trail running events like the UTMB  are commonplace and recent new records such as Jasmin Paris's finish at the Barkley Marathons and Russ Cook running the length of Africa catapulting the sport into the public eye.

Ahead of this summer's Olympics, outdoor footwear company, Merrell has launched a campaign calling on Olympic decision-makers to include trail running at future games. To support their call, five UK athletes are stepping onto the campaign trail in their trail running shoes and attempting a 455km relay from London all the way to Paris. The runners will embark on their intercity adventure on April 11th and hope to be in Paris by the 14th.

The list of runners includes Jimi Harrison, William Pitts, Savannah Snead, Jay Medway and Joe Page. Harrison, a member of the Keep On Keeping On running club, says inclusion of trail running makes sense after the Olympics has added other sports such as rock climbing, breakdancing, surfing and skateboarding.

“Trail running continues to be overlooked as an Olympic sport," says Harrison.

“We feel that new Olympic sports should reflect the trends and popularity of the current day and believe the time has come for trail running to be adopted at future Olympics.”

Trail running has become one of the world’s fastest-growing sports, according to the International Track and Field Federation, with millions of runners around the world participating in races, events and recreational runs.

As part of the campaign, Merrell has penned an open letter to representatives of the International Olympic Committee, International Trail Running Association and Brisbane 2032, calling on them to "set the wheels in motion to include trail running at the Olympics when the Games go Down Under."