In a surprise move, President Donald Trump on Friday signed an executive order abolishing "the practice of measuring, certifying, or promoting any foot race using the metric system."
In practical terms, this spells the end for such popular road races as the 5K and 10K as well as a virtually all track events as we know them, from the 100 meters to the 10,000m.
"The voters spoke," Trump told reporters afterward. "They voted for change, OK? They voted for putting America first, and that means using American ways to measure things. Not foreign."
"The metric system is a disaster," he continued. "Look at the countries using it. France. Germany. South America. They're failing, big league. They're falling apart. Not us. Not us. We're going back—and by the way, when I was in military school I was a tremendous athlete, everyone said it, I used to run the 440, won many awards, probably could've gone to the Olympics, decided not to—but the metric system, all these meters and kilowatts and K's and all of these things, they're going away, OK? They're going away."
"Starting now, if you're in the United States of America, you measure your race American."
"With this executive order," he said, "we are making American races American again."
The move garnered little attention from most media outlets—understandably, given the flurry of executive orders, provocative tweets, and other drama during his first full week in office—but runners have certainly noticed.
"No more 5Ks?" asked one runner on Twitter. "WTF?"
"What are we supposed to call them now?" asked another. "3.1-milers?"
"I am prepared to fight this using every tool at my disposal," said the outspoken U.S. track star Nick Symmonds, "up to and including a defiant statement temporarily tattooed on my shoulder."
Symmonds and other opponents of the move have their work cut out for them. In his remarks to reporters following the signing of the order, President Trump underlined his intense dislike for the metric system.
"By the way," he asked rhetorically, "where did the metric system come from? Nobody knows. One day it's not there, we're using miles and feet and inches, everything is great, and then the next day, boom, metric system. All these countries use it. Why? No one knows. Nobody knows. No one asks. But suddenly all these countries are using it, and they—it's a common system. It's a common, a global system. And it—people are saying, many people are saying, maybe it's a plan, a U.N. plan to take over, whatever. I don't know. I have very good sources that are saying that. But I don't know. We're looking into it."
The order eliminating metric-distance races is effective February 1.