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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Coffee Talk: Women's Races

I grew up with two older brothers.

 And all this time, you thought I was dramatic.

And while my mom was thrilled to have a little girl to put frilly pink dresses on... I never felt like my brothers and I had different expectations based on our genders.

Okay, okay. So, my oldest brother and I are both hams.

I followed my brothers around and did everything that they did.
Oh, that's cute, bro. One angry snowman.

(and plotted to myself about how I would do things better AND more efficiently).
Boom! Two snowwomen in the same amount of time!

Sure, I loved tea parties.
That Raggedy Ann bitch. She was kinda quiet.

And playing with barbies.
Barbie Dream House Christmas.
Best Day of My Life.

But whatever my brothers did, I did, too.
Like intently watch football with the guys.

Thanks to my family, I grew up a feminist. And nothing gets me riled up more than to talk about the inequalities of women in the workforce or the fact that women weren't allowed to vote till 1919. WTF people???? That still chaps my ass. 

But to get to my point of this blog post (yes, there is a point, I'm not just gratuitously posting old photos here), there is a race here this weekend in Nashville called the Women's Half Marathon. And every year, when someone asks me if I'm running it, I go off on a tangent about how fucking ridiculous I think it is to have a women's race. My rant includes talking about how far women have come to try to be perceived as equals to men, so why in the WORLD would we want to have an all women race? How pissed would I be if there was an all-male race? Oh WAIT, there was in my lifetime... just a little thing called THE OLYMPICS. (The Women's Marathon as an Olympic event didn't happen until 1984). 

This is what women's running looked like in 1984.
Kickass hair and all.

To add fuel to the fire, The Women's Half Marathon here has pace groups, but they only allow MEN to be the pacers. This is the real sticking point for me. To me, that just says... "Ohhhh.. silly women, you can have a race all to yourselves for prizes, but, hehe, you can't actually run fast on your own, you're too dainty and pretty for that, so, we'll have some big, strong men there to guide you."

I seriously almost give myself an aneurism when I talk about this. It's ridiculous how angry this makes me. But, truthfully, I've never heard another woman pipe up about this. I would NEVER run this race, because... well.. obviously, the aneurism and all... but, plenty of my women friends have and will continue to do so. Which makes me think... am I being totally unreasonable about this?

All these pictures and all this blabbering to ask you... Am I wrong, here? Is this somehow empowering to women? Am I just a getting worked up over nothing? Sure, there's a gap in men's and women's race times. I get that. But, do we really need our own fucking race? I just want to know why women sign up for these races. And why NO ONE ELSE CARES THAT ONLY MEN ARE ALLOWED AS PACERS.

Sorry. I really am genuinely asking about this and want your opinions. All 4 of you. Help me be able to maintain a normal blood pressure when the next person asks me if I'm running this race. 


Meredith said...

Funny enough, I'm running an all-womens race this weekend. Personally, I signed up for it because it only cost $20. $20 for a half marathon? Yes please. My problem with all women races is that they're always pink and fluffy and princess-y. That's just not the kind of girl I am.

Jill Ann said...

I agree with you. Those women's races suck. Here's another point to ponder.

Why does the women's race let one male pacer in particular - that is a REGISTERED sex offender and DID time in a TN prison (while the Striders supported him with running shoes, shirts and such) - be a pacer?

He was my pacer a few years ago and I said NO more.

F-ed up seriously F'ed up!!

Kelly said...

WTF? Only men are allowed to be pacers?! I had no idea. That's absurd!!

Amy said...

Meredith: Yeah, the first year this race was in our town, it was really cheap. I think that's why so many people ran it...

Jill Ann: Sheesh. I didn't know anything about that.

Kelly: I know, right? ABSURD.

Kelly said...

So I was thinking. How about they have men's races and let women be the pace leaders. Isn't there a Men's Health race in NYC? I'll gladly let those guys get chicked by me holding a pace sign!

Melanie said...

My big beef with the women's races is all the pink. Why is the assumption that bc I'm a girl I like pink?!

Coach Bitch said...

I've run women's races and kind of wanted to roll my eyes the entire time about all the pink and giggling and chatty walkers and cookies and Mister Men handing out roses and shit at the finish. The "freshen up" area, complete with hair brushes and deodorant just about made me cry. And vomit.

Still, I couldn't get too wound up about it since the races have been distances that fit into my schedule and were pretty well organized.

HOWEVER. The Striders-supported all male pacers in the Women's Half is utter bullshit. I actually did complain to Peter about it, and he excused it as "a way for men to be involved and supportive of the race."

I think Peter means well, but he just doesn't get it. I'm with Jill. I'll never run that race again.

Amy said...

Honestly, the pink, girly, frilly stuff doesn't bother me. Will I judge a girl in a race that is wearing a tiara and a skirt? Absofuckinglutly. But, that's because I'm an asshole and doesn't bother me from a "gender issues" standpoint.

And while I'm not a huge fan of women feeling like they need their own race (equality peeps!), that's not the biggest issue to me, either.

My main issue is the men pacers thing. And the Strider's response makes me want to vomit. I don't need the support of men!!!!! UGH.

Anonymous said...

It is pretty weird that there are only male pacers. Especially if you consider that Paula Radcliffe's world record 2:15 & 2:17 marathon were deemed ineligible because she had male pacers. (I think that decision has been overturned - probably because all the fat fucks who decide that shit figured out they could not run that pace for 400m)

I dont really have any comment on all the pink and tutus. Wear what you want.

On the other side of the coin there would probably not be many guys who would show up to a "Guys Only" race.


Amy said...

Ohhh. Look at you and your stats. I actually did not know that about Radcliffe! They initially said it was ineligible because she had MALE pacers? Would it have mattered if they had been female?

And of course, that brings into play, that men are faster than women (ughhhh I hate bringing this up).

The Nashville women's half fastest pace group is a 1:30. There were 7-8 women who ran Tom King Half this year faster than a 1:30. So, yeah, that is a REALLY small pool of people to try to get pacers from. So, fine... get a male pacer. But don't EXCLUDE women from being able to volunteer to be a pacer.

I seriously need to get a life at this point, because this is just really driving me crazy.

Anonymous said...

To be clear, I think the male only pacer this is stupid. Women should be allowed to pace as well.

The extra shitty thing about Radcliffe is that the powers that be went back and deemed her records to be ineligible - about a decade after she ran them.


Amy said...

It has dawned on me that my issue seems to not be with the ACTUAL Women's Half Marathon... but with the Striders. This seems to be their policy.

Maybe I'll bandit along the course for my long run this week and carry a sign with some kind of clever slogan about the shittiness of the policy.

Or I could just go to the message boards again. Sigh.

Amy said...

ohhhh wait. Here's what I should do...

I'm supposed to run 14 miles around 8:45-9:00 pace for my long run. I should bandit the race and carry a 1:55 pacer sign!!!!!

ace said...

i ran it the first year -- for the medal. did you know it's got a removable charm? i am not even kidding - about the charm or the charm of the charm. i ran it for the medal.

that is all.

Anonymous said...

I have trouble understanding why you would care in the least that the Striders provide male pacers for this race! To me, the men are serving the women and the race, and I don't see this as a bad thing! I'm as feminist as anyone, and it never struck me as a problem in the slightest. I don't care if the pacers are all told to dress up like Elvis!

I also don't have a problem with all-women races. I run this race because it is convenient. I won't run it again after this year since it is a Competitor Group race, which is more of a problem in my view than whether there is a lot of pink, tiaras, male pacers, or bling. A lot of women seem to enjoy the "girlfriend" atmosphere and some of the slower runners/walkers feel less intimidated in this environment. That's fine. There are plenty of other races for men and those who get upset about male pacers.
Leading Ladies is an excellent race for women. There are others. There is clearly a market for these races.

Amy said...

Ace! My avatar doppelganger! Thanks for your charming comment. I had not considered the possible pluses of the swag involved with the race.

Anon: I appreciate your perspective. Thinking of it in a way of the men "serving" the women isn't something I had thought of and actually kinda cracks me up.

My problem is that in a race where women are supposedly celebrated (or however you want to say it) they are excluded from the opportunity of helping/leading other women to their goals as pacers. It just seems counter intuitive and frankly, it offends me.

One thing I completely agree with you on... is the distaste of Competitor Group Races. I avoid those races whenever possible.

Thanks for the comment and good luck at the race!

Anonymous said...

Now I want to know which one of the pacers is a sex offender?

Zoe said...

Yeah, it's the male pacers that make it total bullshit. I can see where some women runners, especially newbies, might feel good about an all women's race but the male pacers just make it patronizing.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Amy said...

I deleted an anonymous comment that had had the sex offenders name, but here is the comment in it's entirety without the name. (If you want the guys name, you can email me and I'll give it to you, but I don't really want my blog coming up in searches for this guy):

Not sure if he was a pacer this year, but apparently [redacted] was arrested some years ago on assault, rape, and sexual abuse of young girls while he was a doctor at Vanderbilt. For whatever reason, the Striders have always been unusually supportive of [redacted] and given him lots of opportunities. It seems really effed up, but maybe there is information missing. If those are the facts, the Striders need to pull their heads out of their asses. That guy should have NOTHING to do with "serving" women and girls. Sickening.

drphibes said...

I was a pacer for the inaugural race so I'll weigh in on the "only male pacers" issue. The rationale I was given at the time, was that by having men for the pacers, all women would be able to run their best and not have to give up an opportunity to truly race. Does that justify having only men? Probably not. Aren't there women out there who are in the middle of a training cycle and could pace this race as part of a training run? Probably. For me, I liked the idea that I was making it possible for one more person to be able to run for themselves so that's why I paced. That, and the nice pink women's tech shirt I got.

I would add that the pacing experience that day was very rewarding. Not because the whole group was women, but because it was truly inspiring to watch people attempt to do something they weren't 100% sure they could do. For many in my group this was their first half marathon and it was great to play just a microscopic part in their success.

Amy said...

Zoe: Patronizing is a good word for it!

Drphibes: Thanks for giving me the perspective from a male pacer! I can see the rationale that you were given... but, you got a free entry and you got an AMAZING experience out of it, by helping people as a pacer. I just think the same opportunity should be given to women, too. It seems like the intention of the all male pace group is well-meaning. But, it still just rubs me the wrong way.