50 km race may be removed from the Olympic program

Rob Heffernan won a bronze medal in the race in 2012

50 km race may be removed from the Olympic program

Ireland's Brendan Boyce and Rob Heffernan in action during the 50km race at Rio 2016. Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie

One of Ireland's best athletics events on the international stage is at risk of being taken off the calendar.

The 50 kilometre walk could be replaced by a half-marathon before Tokyo 2020. In recent years, Cork athlete Rob Heffernan won bronze in the race at London 2012. He also became World Champion the following year in Moscow.

A vote to remove the distance will be taken this month by the IAAF, according to The Irish Times. There are currently two races in the Olympics and World Championships in the form of a 20km and 50km race. The vote will be to remove both races in favour of a half-marathon (21.1 km).

If the rule is passed, this summer's World Championships in London will be the last major event to host a 50 km race. The women's race will also be effected. Although they do not compete in the 50 km race, their 20km distance will be increased to a half-marathon.

Among those to criticise the decision was Evan Dunfee. The Canadian finished in fourth place at Rio 2016.

Inside The Games, reports that a letter, signed by 60 athletes has been sent to the IAAF in a bid to keep the longer distance as part of the international program. Jared Tallent and Majej Toth, winners of the 2012 and 2016 Olympic races lead the signatories on the petition.