Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Women-only races... hmmm

I run a lot of races. I love races. So I guess it was only a matter of time before this happened:

"Women of Wonder" 5K / 10K banner

That's me (in black) with my pal Lindsay (purple), running the Kirkland Half Marathon way back in May 2010. We signed up for that race kindof at the last minute -- possibly the day before? -- and it was my "qualifying" race for Half Fanatics way back when. (I had run the Vancouver Half the weekend before, so qualified as a single moon fanatic with 2 races in 9 days.)

It was also one of the first times I had EVER run with anyone besides Wil -- and Lindsay was a perfect running companion, keeping me laughing through all 13.1 miles.

Fast forward 3 years... I've run a lot more races, become a SIX MOON Half Fanatic (4 half marathons in 4 days), and always figured that one day I'd show up on some race brochure or website.

Pro-Motion Events puts on a lot of great races in and around Seattle. They usually have great shirts, great courses, and great organization. Over the years I've run several of their races -- the Resolution Run, Love 'Em or Leave 'Em 5K (now Valentine's Day Dash), the Firecracker 5000, the Fremont 5K, the Dawg Dash, the 12Ks of Christmas, and, yes, the Kirkland Half Marathon. So when I got an email yesterday about a new "Women of Wonder" race, I figured it was worth reading about.

I actually laughed out loud, however, when I got to the site and vaguely recognized someone in the banner. Yeah, that's me in my former life (hence the swoosh hat....), just starting one of my first half marathons, running happy with my gal Lindsay. Or at least we have our race faces on. Or something.
I have to admit that I think it's pretty cool. I mean, I always hope to see myself in a RunDisney recap. So maybe a local race is a good start.

It's just that I don't approve of women-only races. And the Women of Wonder run is women-only. Not just women focused -- women exclusive. I checked -- there isn't an option to choose "male" under gender on the registration form.

I also don't approve of men-only races. I think of Kathrine Switzer fighting so hard to run the Boston Marathon back in 1967... a race that women weren't allowed to run until 1972. Is this how far we've come, that women can now exclude men from an event in the name of "empowerment"?

I want to quickly add that I'm not opposed to women-themed races, such as the Tinker Bell Half Marathon, or the Princess Half Marathon, See Jane Run, Nike Women's Marathon, etc. Hell, most of the race shirts I've accumulated over the years are "unisex" -- ha, I mean, MENS -- so if for a change a man might have to suffer with a pink, women's cut shirt, then that's fine. But excluding a person from doing something on behalf of their gender is sexism, plain and simple. Substitute "men"... or even "whites" for "women" in a women-only race, and tell me that that's okay.

I'm sorry if some women are uncomfortable around men. I'm sorry if some women lack the confidence to be themselves around men. But in the real world, in real society, we live our lives with lots of different people. Wanna run in pink tutus with your girlfriends? Cool! Get a group together! You don't need a women-only race to make that happen. Want a sparkly medal, a women's cut race shirt, and an expo full of glitter? Also cool! There are lots of events -- open to both men and women -- where you can do that.

Maybe I'm just sensitive to this because a woman shouted at my husband for daring to run the Tinker Bell Half Marathon with me in 2012. A race that is women-themed, but also open to men and women. I rarely run a race without my husband -- the WIL in Team Wil-Sun. So don't tell me that I'm not allowed to run without my running buddy because he happens to be male.

I realize that I'm opening myself up to a lot of criticism here. But I think running is something for everyone -- and we should be encouraging everyone to get out and run. Discriminating against runners on behalf of their gender is wrong. So despite being one of their cover girls (ha ha), I won't be signing up for the race.

Okay, stepping off my soapbox now. How do you feel about women-only races? How about a men-only race? (I can't actually think of any in the US, but perhaps there are some?)

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