Is marathon racing a declining art in North America?

I have been doing a study of the Barcelona International Race and personally, I find this style of racing very exciting. Take this year's race (July 9th, 2000):

The pigeons were released at Barcelona on Sunday 08:00 AM (hold over). The pigeons departed very well, the first birds arriving home Monday morning!

The International winner, for the second year in a row, was from the Netherlands. The winning bird belonging to Comb. Houtekamer from Oud Sabbinge the pigeon won this international race with a speed of 1230m/m. Also the second prize international is a pigeon from the Netherlands, belonging to H.S Wegh from Lochem with a speed of 1224m/m. The third place bird, is the first pigeon into Belgium for Opsomer Josť & Nic from Maarkedaal.

The national winner for Germany is Mom Liesel from Rheinberg orsoy and the national winner for France is Fruitier G & C from Berck/Me. Rolien Frank from Bivange is the national winner from Luxenburg.

How close a race was it? Well, the Netherlands, Belgium, French and German winners were all clocked in the first 22 birds internationally out of 26,611 entries, with a 230-mile wide front separating the French and German National winners.

What an incredible race! Can you imagine a fairer race than this - 4 national winners clocking in the first 22 positions internationally, across a 230-mile front?

The Barcelona race is almost always a second day race and this has allowed for a most fair opportunity for all flyers across the front to compete equally in this 580 mile - 780 mile long race.

Since the 1950's the number of lofts competing in the short and middle distance races, in Europe, has diminished while the number of lofts competing in the long distance and marathon races has increased. This trend is further strengthened by the prices that fanciers are willing to pay to acquire long distance National Ace Pigeons.

While the short and middle distance National Ace Pigeons are selling in the range of tens of thousands of dollars, long distance National Ace Pigeons have sold for $100,000 or more.

In the United States, we have seen a reverse trend. Futurity racing is the growth market in our country and the 600, 700, and 1,000-mile race stations are becoming a historical footnote. Our old bird race schedules are often set up to exclude release points that might result in second day races.

When a youngbird wins a futurity race against competition from a hundred different entrants' lofts, this is a great accomplishment. With the growing number of small membership clubs out there (5 - 9 members), these futurities often offer the only real competition to prove the breeding of the small clubmember's birds. But, is this trend making extinct the marathon racer in North America?

It would be rather ironic, if in 10 to 15 years, we started importing these long distance racers from Europe, having abandoned our own great heritage of marathon racing strains (Trentons, Sions, Logans, Grooters, Morris Gordons, etc.).

I cannot help but admire the tremendous stamina of these long distance Champions. Let us consider Deny's famous 4415211-76 "Tee"; who placed in the International Barcelona race 1979 - 46th, 1980 - 8th, 1981 - 102nd, and 1982 - 4th. That is right, as a six year old flyer, "Tee" won 4th International Barcelona, the Golden Wing Award of Belgium and was declared the greatest distance racer of the 5 year period, 1978 - 1982.

Or, let us consider Van der Wegen's 8310766-83 "De 66";

"De 66 Barcelona" flew Barcelona for six straight years as follows:

1985 -545th~ 17,060p
1986 -677th~ 18,176p
1987 -446th~ 21,545p
1988 -47th~ 21,194p
1989 -2841st~ 25,502p
1990 -1240th~ 28,128p

Then went on to place:

1990 - 7th ~ 10,444p Perpignan International as a seven year old, fantastic!

I wonder how many North American lofts even have a 7-year-old bird on their race team, let alone one of such great courage and stamina as the "Tee" or "De 66". Certainly, these are a different kind of racing pigeon, birds of a rich heritage and noble character.

North America flyers must ask themselves and their race officials: Have we abandoned these majestic marathon racers, and the great traditions of our predecessors? Have the apparent necessities of shrinking club memberships, and the allure of youngbird money races, clouded our eyes to the importance of these marvelous athletes? Will we turn our backs on the breeding aspirations of our forefathers who spent generations developing the great American long distance strains?

When your officers meet again, consider earnestly the historical and competitive significance of reinstating true long distance racing into your upcoming race schedules.

Certainly inconvenience and a short memory, should not be the determining factors in the extinction of an American masterpiece - "The Marathon Racing Pigeon".