Monday, September 26, 2011

Women and Running and Rules

I don't typically take interest in the politics and rules of running and my feathers aren't usually ruffled, but there have been some recent discussion-worthy announcements regarding women and running that have caught my attention.

Many of you probably know which announcement I'm referring to. Last week the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federation - basically the international governing body for athletics) announced that women would only be able to set a world record in a road race if it was a "women's only" race. Basically, if men and women are running a marathon together, and a woman sets a new female record, it will no longer be a "world record," but a "world best." The argument behind this is that women will run faster if there are men in the field because the men are pacesetting for them and this should be unfair. Excuse me, but last time I checked women are not tethered to men during races by invisible ropes. They run with their own two feet and put just as much effort in. Just to elaborate on the ridiculousness of this let me give you an example:

Paula Radcliffe had, up until this announcement last week, set a world record for the woman's marathon in 2003 in London with a time of 2:15:25. But it was a mixed gender race, so now it doesn't count. Her next best time was 2:17:18 in 2002 in Chicago. Also a mixed gender race. Doesn't count. Her third best time, 2:17:42, was in 2005 in London. During this race the elite women started 45 minutes before the men and ran the race separately. Hence, her 2:17:42 is a world RECORD and her 2:15:25 is only a world BEST. Say what?

Completely separate from this, but also confusing, are the rules for women in the Ragnar Relay Series. I am running the PA Ragnar next Friday. I'm really excited about it and I really do think they are a great organization. I've heard nothing but good things. However, they also have some strange rules regarding women runners.
A Ragnar team traditionally consists of 12 runners (though you just need a minimum of 4 to run the relay). There are three different divisions: men, women, and mixed. If I asked you what you thought mixed team meant I bet you would say "men and women." And if I asked you what you thought a women's team meant you would say "all women." Right and right. But if I asked what a men's team meant and you said "all men," you would be wrong. As the Ragnar "Race Bible" says:

"To qualify for the mixed division, teams must have at least 6 women. To be in the women's division the team must be all women."

Did you catch that? That means I can have a men's team if I have women on it, but I cannot have a women's team if I have even one man on it! And a mixed team has to be at least six women, but could have up to 11 women and only one man and still be considered mixed!

All of these rules seem to be saying "women are weaker and count for less." Apparently, in the world of running, women just aren't worth as much weight in gold as men.

Any thoughts on this?

1 comment:

  1. I've been stewing about the IAAF rules for days... I hadn't thought of the Ragnar issue, but you do bring up a good point there, too.


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