Malcolm Campbell is no stranger to the world of Ultrarunning. An Honourary President of the IAU, he was one of the founding members of the association. IAU is in its 25th year and it is appropriate to profile one of its original members.
Malcolm is a cornerstone of the progression of this sport through the years. He is still involved with his love for ultrarunning having recently attended the 100km World Cup in Torhout, Belgium.
I personally am very impressed by Malcolm’s passion for the sport. I had the opportunity to sit with him and have a candid chat about the history of the IAU, the present state of the association and his view of the future for ultrarunning.
Nadeem Khan (NK): So Malcolm you are like a cornerstone when it comes international ultrarunning. Tell me a bit about your experiences with the IAU as the organization celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.
Malcolm Campbell (MC): The IAU was a group of runners and one statistician that was formed to regularise the sport and organize under IAAF rules. They did a pretty good job and they are doing a great job. 47 or so countries in its folds today. Everything I think is going very well.
NK: When you started the IAU 25 years back did you envision these many member federations when we hit the quarter century mark?
MC: Not really. Our original format was based on only runners being members. It was only into the formation of the organization we realized that it is very important to have the federations involved. From 1991, IAAF financed the federations with travel grants and it really took off. It is expensive for athletes to travel around the world and expensive for federations to organize these for athletes but with the help of IAAF and pretty good race organizers, things have gone in the right direction.
NK: How do you envision the next 25 years to be?
MC: This is an exciting time now. We have Gibraltar join us which is exciting. It is a very small country with a lot of ultrarunning interest. We have the Commonwealth Championships this year. I think we would like the Olympics. It is a dream we all share but we all envision it differently. Some people say that it should be trail running or maybe a 24 hour race. Certainly, I would like to see a 100km IAAF championship. That is to have a 100km organized by the IAAF as part of their series. This I think would be an icing on the cake. This shouldn’t be in the distance future.
NK: What role do you think that the IAAF has played with the progression of the IAU?
MC: I should say that the IAAF have been really fantastic. Sue Richardson who has died now, God Bless her, worked with Pierre Weiss. Pierre has been a pillar of strength. The good thing about Pierre is that if he says no he means no and if he says yes, he means it. He is so positive in his thinking and he is so direct. I have had some really good advise from him and a great deal of help. I think Dirk will agree with me that the support of the IAAF has been one of the major reasons of the success of the IAU and how things have gone.
MC: How are you finding it? I mean it is a new step for you. Can I just turn the tables and ask you that?
NK: The interviwer becomes the interviewee. I am loving it. I am totally loving the whole aspect of it. I am enjoying being on the other side having run for Canada as an athlete at two different occasion at the 24hr World Challenge.
MC: … And you are in the Medical field too. And you are well intoned with what can go wrong and how does the body respond to ultrarunning?
NK: Yes, my experience in the Medical field helps me exactly in those aspects. I am also trying to promote ultrarunning as much as I can. Non ultrarunning crowd is still amazed and sometimes scared when you talk to them about ultrarunning. The concept is still somewhat new with the people.
MC: Canada has been a big supporter of ultrarunning through their national organization Association of Canadian Ultrarunners (ACU) which I suppose you are a member of.
NK: Yes, thanks for reminding me as I am pretty close to having my membership expire. So it is time for renewals.
MC: I got a nice message for Michel Careau recently. I think he is the treasurer.
NK: Yes, He has been a treasurer for the last decade or so.
MC: He is a pioneer of 6 day running which is my favourite sport. He has won 6 day races in New York and he is a fantastic individual. NK: I couldn’t agree more about Michel.
NK: Let me switch places with you again. One last question, What if someone picks this interview in the next 15-20-25 years, Tell me what is the state of ultrarunning right here, right now in 2009.
MC: The state of ultrarunning is really good. There are several countries getting involved especially some of the smaller ones. The potential is great. There is a mystical thing about 50 and we are a couple down from there in terms of member federations. Once you have 50 federations involved, you are talking about strength. When you thing from the perspective of a sport that is not a major sport when in comparison to marathon participation, it is still a major number of federations. I think the sport has gone in the right direction. I think with Dirk Strumane as President everything is going well. I think I am well-qualified and the only person qualified to make that comment for Dirk because I was the only IAU president prior to Dirk.
NK: So in that case I am glad that you were not the former Director of Communications then…
MC: (laughs)… You are doing a great job.
NK: Malcolm, you know we here at the IAU have a lot of respect for you and you will always a part of the IAU. You are an honourary member.
MC: Thank you for taking time to sit with me. I am having a great time here. I have seen a lot of old friends here. They used to be athletes and they have become team Managers now. It is really a good sport and a very close camaraderie.
Director of Communications