When I was 25 or so and lived in England, right about the time the dinosaurs walked the earth, I entered my first race. It was a fun run called Race for life, the participants of which raised money for Breast Cancer Research. I was green as the first leaves of spring, and it was a daunting task to train for, and finally run, the 5 km around the city park.
I did 3 such fun runs in England, then quit running for a long time (you can read all about how I started running here and here). Yesterday's Vår Ruset brought back memories. The anticipation, the crowds, the sense that this was more like a party and less like a race. Unlike Race for Life, the money from Vår Ruset don't go to charity. Otherwise, there are many similarities. Among others, that it is a race just for women.
I ran with a friend from work, for whom this was the first race. She's good at running and takes it seriously, so we kept a pretty good pace together throughout, although I had to take a couple of walking breaks to give my knee some rest. Then I would run fast to catch up with her, zigzagging among the walkers and the joggers. Either we were too pessimistic in our own running ability when we picked the ”running” group and not the ”running fast” one to start in, or everyone else in the group was too optimistic, because moving forward was real slow going (first 500 metres took more than 4 minutes). Still, my friend and I raced each other the last hundred metres and sprinted past the finish line.
I was happy. My knee played up a bit a couple of times (hence the walking breaks) but otherwise it held much better and longer than I had expected, and there was no pain, not yesterday and not this morning (Göteborgsvarvet is a GO!). I was proud to see my friend run so well and glad that she enjoyed it so much, and hoped that she will continue to think running is fun. But the whole situation left a bad taste in my mouth.
I don't want to sound snobbish, because, after all, a fun run is how it all started for me. Maybe Vår Ruset is how it starts for a lot of these women who ran yesterday. But I personally felt out of place, and it wasn't because I was the only one wearing a Garmin or VFF as far as the eye could see, no; you don't need gadgets to be a runner. It's how the whole concept of races like this is aimed at women. At making it cosy, with picnic blankets and pink T-shirts dominating your optical field, and no pesky men around except the funny ones that put a dress and a wig on in order to be able to participate. This is girls' night out, but in spandex. And without the cocktails (or maybe I missed them?).
|I bet they're men.|
I overheard someone saying that she thought it was so cosy that it was just women running this. I don't know what reasons she had to say that. I don't even think I can formulate why it makes me feel so uncomfortable to hear women say that. The year is 2012 and we've supposedly come a long way from the time women weren't allowed to participate in sports, and then we go and segregate ourselves voluntarily. But I think that my biggest problem is not that it's just for women, but that the whole thing is so...sloppy. It's as if it's ok to not take it seriously, because who cares? It's just for women. No timekeeping. No official results. A very short distance (4,2 km – not even a 5K). Just cosiness, music, hanging out. And, because it's so cosy and short (and there are no competitive men around making you look bad), you don't even have to exert yourself. Don't push yourself, little girl, you might get tired!
|He gets the medal. Because this was a race for women and he's a pussy-cat.|
It serves a good purpose, of course. It brings women together. It gets women who otherwise might have spent the evening on the sofa to get out there and move their asses. And it was fun (and nothing wrong with that). But I just can't accept that this means that we don't have to take the whole thing seriously. The cynic in me screams ”marketing ploy” and weeps for the 290 Swedish crowns I paid that went to who knows whose pockets just for some light entertainment, when what I'd really hoped for was a race. In other words, I have outgrown this. Bring me tjejmarathon instead, a real ultra-challenge for women who don't just want the cosiness factor, for women who aren't afraid to test their limits, a serious race. Or at least lemme see a race just for men who want to jog around 4 km, have a picnic afterwards and gossip with their friends. What's that? Is there no market for it?! Come on, girls, you can do better than this. Crave more from race organisers. Take yourselves seriously. Don't settle for cosy.
At least Race for Life was for charity.
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