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Are Lady Races Really Necessary?

Tomorrow, I’m super-psyched to be running the Chicago Women ROCK Half-Marathon. The weather looks perfect, and I’m curious to see if I still have my race legs after taking it pretty easy, running-wise, recently due to my wedding and honeymoon. Anne is running the half-marathon, too, and so are many awesome Oak Parkers from Best Foot Forward, the women-only running club Anne formed earlier this year.

However, I’m not quite comfortable with the concept of the race, which seems to be based on a very specific idea about ladies and what they like. The main selling points of the Women ROCK series are that you get a glass of sparkling wine afterward, men who looked like they just stepped out of a Sexy Firefighter calendar hand you the flute of pink bubbly, and instead of getting a finisher’s medal, you get a sterling silver pendant encrusted with rubies and diamonds.

No one is arguing that champagne isn't the greatest.

No one is arguing that champagne isn’t the greatest.

I like champagne as much as anyone — probably actually a lot more, let’s be honest; I could bathe in it like a Jazz Age socialite — but I’m not loving the way Women ROCK, Divas, and other race series target female athletes. On the one hand, I can see how this relaxed, somewhat silly approach to race day could be great for someone who is running her first 5K, 10K, or half. It’s less intimidating. On the other hand, doesn’t the silliness somewhat diminish the accomplishment?

I imagine women are training just as hard for this event as they would for one called, say, EXTREME!!! Chicago Lakefront Half: To Hell…and Back, but there would be a little more glory associated with the tougher name. And I think the lady-race theme is predicated on a fallacy to begin with, one that asserts women prefer to showcase their femininity rather than prove their endurance and strength.

Kate and Anne at Warrior Dash 2011.

Kate and Anne at Warrior Dash 2011.

After all, most CrossFit wackos — and I say that with the utmost love and respect please don’t beat me up — I know are women. I know more women than men who have completed obstacle-and-mud-based challenges, like Warrior Dash and Tough Mudder. My own sister won’t stop talking about her “guns.” (In fact, I caught wind that her biceps might even get their own blog post, so, you know, you’ve been warned.)

Packet pickup for Women ROCK is even referred to on the race website as an “Expotique.” Because women be shopping, I guess.

Am I total killjoy? Or is anyone else feeling a little uneasy about signing up for these races that, rather than celebrating women as women, seem to be celebrating women as consumers?

I do fucking love champagne though.

I do fucking love champagne though.

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Lively Athletics


20 Sep, 2013



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