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No place for relay runners in May 24

TOMORROW'S Marathon Derby will begin with 1176 runners (how many finish, well that's a different story) — the second highest, preceded only by the 2009 field when the event celebrated its 100th anniversary.Not surprisingly anyone who possessed a pair of running shoes wanted to play their part in race history, even if they had to cross the finish line on all fours. Plenty did, including this plodder.But there was also one major difference. The race four years ago attracted just 13 relay teams, a measly 52 runners.This year that category will be filled with 110 teams — 440 athletes, or wannabe athletes.Organisers continue to mess with tradition, as they have in renaming the event and invited tourists.The marathon, or to be precise the Half-Marathon, wasn't intended for sprinters. It was intended to test endurance, to test both the runner's physical and mental strength on a deceptively undulating course made all the more difficult by heat and humidity.Gathering a team of four runners, each covering approximately three and a quarter miles, does nothing to enhance the Derby.It's exactly the opposite. It detracts from what has always been by far the most prestigious of all road races.Ask any one of those who will tomorrow attempt the full 13.1 miles, and they'll tell you the relay should play no part in such a showpiece event.This year's relay entry surpassed that of last year (82).Next year, guaranteed there will be even more.It's only a matter of time before the first relay runner crosses the finish line ahead of the first individual.Perhaps when that happens the organisers will come to their senses.But it'll be too late.A unique race, in all aspects, will have been destroyed forever.The majority of those attempting the full distance will begrudge the relay runners as they canter ahead of them, fresh as a daisy.Their own achievement will be diluted. Their efforts diminished.Cheers and encouragement from the roadside spectators should be exclusively directed at them. But that won't be the case.And if a relay runner doesn't cross that finish line anytime soon, you can bet a tourist will.With visitors now allowed to compete, Bermudian glory is under threat.Organisers have stressed that only the average visiting runner will be allowed to join the field and 'they don't expect too many'.How they arrived to that conclusion maybe the most baffling of all the rules amendments.Once word gets out, and it surely will given the thousands who fly in every year for January's Race Weekend, you can bet the likes Chris Estwanik and wife Ashley with face some much stiffer competition.Scrap the relay — or least schedule it on a different day — scrap the rule that hands a tourist with a race number. Alternatively, schedule the relay race an hour after the major race and insist that teams be made up by two men and women.Return the May 24 Marathon Derby to where it belongs — Bermuda's greatest sporting event.Hundreds watch Cup Match, but thousands witness the race.But that could all change when the relay runners outnumber the real runners.* * * *LEAGUE cricket begins this weekend.At least we thought it did.It wasn’t until late yesterday afternoon that the public and the media were informed that matches would be played. Before then there was no sign of a schedule, no list of venues.But then given Bermuda Cricket Board's history, should we have expected anything more?