The other day I was minding my own business, when the ever-most-awesome Scicurious sent me a link to an article (SIDE NOTE: don't miss Sci blogging the Ignobles over at SciAm!). Now, before you get all excited, this isn't some super-cool-crazy-awesome science that Sci is so good at finding. Nope, instead it was something kinda infuriating. But first, some background.
Like Sci, I enjoy distance running. I'm not incredibly fast, but running is fun and keeps me from being a cranky person (too much). And I like reading about running, but not so much this: the IAAF (the world governing body for track and field) is going to require that all records for females be set in an all-female field. In other words, if there are boys running then your time doesn't count. Because the boys made you faster...because they were pacing you...or something.
THIS IS TOTAL BULLSHIT. Obviously. The IAAF doesn't have a problem with runners using pacers...unless the runners are women and the pacers are men. WTF? The IAFF is basically ignoring the women's world record (Paula Radcliffe, 2:15:25 at the London Marathon) because there were men on the same course. I have run with many people faster than me. Unfortunately, I was not able to magically suck the speed or endurance from these people. I could only go as fast as my own fitness and training allowed.
The Canadian record holder, and all-around awesome person from what I can tell, Silvia Ruegger, may also have her Canadian record stripped by the new rule (2:28:36 at the Houston Marathon in 1985). But Sylvie took it all in stride:
“I think all of us as women, we did it because we had a passion to do it in spite of all the odds, in spite of all the obstacles and people saying you shouldn’t do it and why are you doing it and all of that. But part of it was about leaving a legacy and being role models and examples and showing young girls what was possible."
There is a long history of trying to prevent women from running distance races. The most famous example is the Boston Marathon. Women were not allowed to register to run Boston until 1972 (though Bobbi Gibb ran the whole course in 1966 as a bandit). The first women to run Boston with a number was Katherine Switzer in 1967 (she registered as K.V. Switzer, and the organizers assumed she was female). Switzer was almost physically dragged off the course by race organizers, who did not take kindly to seeing a woman running on the course with a number.
I found the picture here.
It used to be that people thought women couldn't run 26.2 miles. They were wrong. But that doesn't stop them from trying to put up obstacles still (stay classy, IAAF). Luckily for me, there are women out there willing to prove them wrong. And men that are willing to make sure they had the chance to do that.