Note: This is one of those posts in which I don’t know what I think. It’s also one in which I can’t see a right and a wrong answer. I’ve earlier written about not wishing to patronize runners based upon their speed. Now I wonder if we’re not patronizing runners based upon their gender. Again I have only my perspective to guide me. I wonder what some of my lady friends have to say.
One of my FB friends popped a post wondering why there was prize money for men at the Healthy Kidney 10K but none, zilch, nada for women. I responded that NYRR’s prize money race for women was the Mini 10K. In fact, the prize-money is higher for the latter than for the former (unless the HK winner breaks the course-record, which earns a $20,000 bonus). Are women-only races appropriate given the mis-/second-class treatment that women faced (or perhaps still face?) in running?
The women only Mini is a historical event highlighting the systematic exclusion of women from competitive running. The kidney run (which I’m running in) is something else…and it’s just weird.
And, she continued,
Because of the historical and systematic exclusion of women from competitive running and sports in general, I think it’s important that there is a space for women athletes and sports events that are promoted for women only. Women are still underrepresented at world class events.
I’ve never given a particular thought to the appropriateness of a women-only event. The Mini marathon has been around for 39 years. My sisters ran it in the early 80s and it was a a celebration of women running. That celebration was implicitly tied to the exclusion of women from many events — the women’s marathon made it to the Olympics only in 1984, which is really shocking as we look back, as is their exclusion from Boston until the 70s. Here’s a review of women and running.
To me, a 53 year old male, I considered the Mini as a chance to bring elite women to New York for a tough race in Central Park, as it is the chance for women to have their own race. Grete ran the Central Park course in under 31:00. New York had another elite race in the Spring, the Trevira Twosome, which by its nature required elites of both sexes. (Each entrant was a man-woman team and the race was scored based upon each team’s combined times. I once did it with my sister but otherwise with a WSSAC teammate.) Only recently has NYRR brought in elite men in the Spring, to the Healthy Kidney and to the USATF national 8K road championship.
Underlying all is the reality that lots of decent-but-not-great men can beat the top women. Like me (in the old days). Every year people would complain in the marathon about such men hanging onto the lead women for “TV face time.” After the 8-mile merge, the women would find themselves mixed in among the men, and was difficult to see them really racing against one another. Now, with the early start, we see that, and I think it elevates the women’s race. It ceases to be a difficult-to-cover afterthought, which is to the good. The irony, of course, being that when NYRRC first allowed women in the marathon the AAU required that they start their race 10 minutes before the men were set to go. So the women simply sat at the start for ten minutes and went off with the men. Now it’s a sign of progress — the women are entitled to compete directly against one another.
Putting aside the clean-racing reality, though, should we have women-only events? Is it patronizing? NYRR has two, the Mini and the More Half. Must there be an equal number of men-only races? I see nothing wrong with the “celebratory” aspect, but should I?
Beyond that, should the Olympic Trials standards differ? The men only have an “A” standard, but even when there was a “B” as well it was, relatively speaking, far tougher than the comparable figures for the women. I don’t know about that one. Personally, I never had the talent to get to the 2:19:04 standard in 1984, but think I could have gotten to 2:25. But it was never in play for me, and I remain in awe of those who can achieve the men’s standard.
I think for comparable women, though, it is in play and it is a great carrot, and I know some women who will likely get it. And I think that’s good. I don’t begrudge them the opportunity as I don’t begrudge them having their own races.