More than 3000 runners took part in the six IAAF Run 24-1 events that wound their way through the Americas on Sunday.
The Colombian capital Bogota was the first stop, where 400 people took part at the Cicloruta Biblioteca Virgilio Barco near the city’s Simon Bolivar Park. Race walkers Luis Fernando Lopez, the 2011 world 20km champion, and Sandra Lorena Arenas, the first Colombian athlete to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, were on hand to greet and support the runners.
“This is a very good idea; a very good initiative,” said Carlos Sanmartin, the first finisher. “Having 24 cities is fantastic because it shows that the whole world cares about running and that the number of runners is increasing.”
Havana was the next stop, where more than 500 runners took to the streets of the Cuban capital where they were joined by some of the island nation’s sporting royalty.
IAAF Vice President Alberto Juantorena, the 1976 Olympic 400m and 800m champion served as the event’s race manager, joining forces with Javier Sotomayor, the high jump world record-holder and Olympic medallists Ana Quirot, Dayron Robles, Maria Caridad Colon and Roberto Hernandez.
After a quick hop back eastward to Rabat on the northwest African coast, the virtual baton crossed the Atlantic again, landing in Sao Paulo, Latin America’s largest city, for the second consecutive year. There, organisers staged the event over 24 contests of their own, grouping the 723 participants in races according to their levels. The fastest of the morning? An impressive 4:34. The race also featured local star Ana Luiza dos Anjos Garcez whose life was transformed – perhaps even saved – after her introduction to running.
The Chilean capital Santiago was next, where the Andes Mountains provided an idyllic backdrop for the 400 runners who took part in the event near the city’s historical National Stadium.
“It was a very beautiful and good atmosphere, and the organization was good,” said Gustavo Roncatti, a South American masters champion. “A lot of people participated and I hope that this event continues in the future.”
Juan Luis Carter, President of the Chilean Athletics Federation, was equally impressed.
“We hope that the IAAF idea to involve people from 24 cities of different countries is something that will be repeated in the future,” he said.
“The possibility to involve local sponsors in a global race is something that can create a big impact and helps to change the way we do things in the world of sports.”
The route then shifted north towards the central Mexican city of Queretaro where 900 competitive and recreational runners joined the international celebration on the day’s penultimate stop.
Alejandro Suarez, a Queretaro native who represented Mexico in the 5000m and 10,000m at the 2004 Olympic Games, was among the runners on hand.
“It was an honour for me to be part of a global event,” Suarez said. “I am proud because we did it in my hometown. I hope that day by day more people continue to join this great activity.”
In closing, he added, “Let the party continue” as he handed over to Atlanta, host to the 1996 Olympic Games and to the closing event of IAAF Run 24-1’s 2019 edition.
There, the virtual baton was handed over to the capable hands of three-time Olympic gold medallist Gail Devers, who led 200 young runners at the city’s Phoenix Park Cheney Stadium on a track which served as a warm-up area for the Atlanta Games.
“We are anchor leg, we got this, we will bring it home strong, that’s what anchors do,” said Devers, who recently served as an event Ambassador at the IAAF World Relays Yokohama 2019.
“My thanks to the IAAF for selecting Atlanta to be the anchor leg,” Devers said. “We had participants of all ages learn the importance and joy of running. I ran the whole way and my goal was just to get it done. Everyone did not come across the finish line first but we are all winners by our efforts.”