Run Like a Girl

I’m running the Queen Bee Half Marathon this weekend, and I have a confession to make: I feel the constant need to apologize for it.

Why? I think it comes down to respect.

I pride myself on being an athlete. It’s so much a part of who I am that when I am injured or otherwise unable to participate, I find myself in a bit of an identity crisis. My entire life, I’ve found validation in sports, and now, on the eve of a race that is tailor-made to who I am — as a female athlete in the city in which I reside — I feel confused (and maybe even embarrassed) about my own enthusiasm for the event. And I’m not alone! Runner’s World just published an article questioning whether women-only races are necessary in this day and age.

There are a variety of factors at play here, but I think it all stems from our societal mindset that when something is feminine, it’s somehow lesser.

When I realized this the other day, I was so disgusted with myself. Why should I feel “silly” running a race for women? It’s the same distance (and certainly just as, if not more, difficult of a course) as any other half marathon on the planet.

As I was discussing the over-the-top race swag with my friend, Tessa, who’s coming in town to run the race with me, she said, “I’m done feeling bad about all of this. This is how men feel every day in a world that is tailored to them. This is going to be the best race ever.” Sometimes it’s really nice to have smart, insightful friends.

Deena tells it like it is.

Deena eases my race-related trepidations.

Then, when I heard that Deena Kastor was coming to Cincinnati for a meet-and-greet two days before the race, I knew I wanted to ask her how she felt about women’s-themed events. I actually got the chance to sit down for a solid 20 minutes (squeeee!) and pick her brain.

“I love women’s races!” Deena happily exclaimed. “I’ve watched my fair share of them, and when I ran my first women’s-themed half marathon a year ago, I told my agent as soon as I was done that I wanted to run it again. There’s just a completely different energy when you get a group of women together like that. I can’t even really explain it. But it’s like the air is buzzing with excitement, and well, it’s just awesome.”

I poked her further, referencing that Runner’s World article. Deena waved her hand at me and rolled her eyes. “Pffft! I saw that article too! And I didn’t even read it because I thought it was so stupid. Of course we should have women’s races. Why not make a healthy running lifestyle as inviting as possible for women?”

Deena wears pink. Deena races against women. Deena is awesome.

Deena wears pink. Deena races against women. Deena is awesome.

Deena Kastor is one of the best runners in the world. And you know what? Each of her 12 American records are “women’s only” records. That Olympic medal? She won it running the women’s marathon.

Does that make them silly? Do I respect those any less because she’s a woman who competes against women? Not a chance.

So you know what? If women’s-themed events are good enough for Deena Kastor, then by golly, they’re good enough for me too. I think I might even be convinced that this race is going to be pretty damn fun. Bring it on, Queen Bee. — Aidz

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6 thoughts on “Run Like a Girl

  1. Pingback: Bad Angel Rules for Running | What a Girl Wants

  2. Pingback: Bad Angel Rules for Running | 2014 Goals: How’d We Do?

  3. Pingback: Race Recap: Queen Bee Half Marathon | Bad Angel Rules for Running

  4. I can understand why women may want their own gyms, but I thought running was different.
    As a man I never worry about all of the men AND women who finish before I do. I’m not competing with them, I’m competing with my self. Meb didn’t beat me at Boston. He won the race. Big difference. I think most runners feel this way.
    When I see the clothes people wear at races and people changing into those clothes in public, it makes me think that runners are not the self concious lot.
    If we had men only races there would be hell to pay, and probably lawyers to pay as well.
    My feeling is that woman runners are not self-concious and having anyone, male or female, finish in front of them is no big deal. To me woman only races are just a marketing strategy. I have nothing against them, but it just seems like marketing to me.
    Besides the Olympic marathon, are there any other world class marathons where only men or only women run? Women fought for years to be able to run Boston with men.
    Please don’t take my tone as stern or angry. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about this issue so maybe i’m off base.

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    • We feel the same about a lot of your points (and have raised many of them in previous posts in this space).

      At several of the world’s top races, the women start separately from the men, although they are technically running the same race and route. (The same can be said for the Queen Bee Half, which allows men to participate with a 15-minute later start.)

      I’d also love to say that all women runners are not self-conscious, but this is simply not true. Unfortunately, being self-conscious often comes with the territory of being a woman, runner or not. And for beginners, especially, races can be intimidating. Like Deena said, a lot of the women’s-themed events are about creating an atmosphere that is inviting for women to encourage running and a healthy lifestyle. Now, I wholly agree that many of those races are marketing ploys (and completely despise certain races’ use of scantily-clad men and the like), but many of them, like the Queen Bee, are non-profit races.

      And yes, women fought for years to be able to run Boston with men. At that time, there were no other options. There were no women’s-themed events. Even today, women are still being told they cannot make choices about what to do with their own bodies. At least when it comes to running races, women now have a choice.

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      • You are right, some women are self concious, runners or not. Same goes with men. I’ll do and wear a lot of things on race day I’d never do anywhere else.
        These races probably do help some women run their first race, and I’m all for that.
        It’s funny, I’ve never noticed these scantily clad men you speak of! 😉

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