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Apparently, Women Don’t Run

A Woman Running
See, women do run!

When I was five years old, I scarred my arm. Racing boys on the playground was always one of my favorite activities (I LOVED that they hated losing to a girl and they lost to me often) and when I had the lead over one of the boys, he tripped me so he could win, and I ripped my arm open.
Twenty years later, I am still running and I am currently training for a half marathon. It’s been 35 years since the passage of Title IX and its guaranteed that, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance, “ essentially guaranteeing women an equal opportunity to participate in sports – along with equal access in all areas of education including admission to college, law, and medical school and the opportunity to participate in previously gender stereotyped classes such shop for girls or home economics for boys. As a daughter of Title IX, my sports career always flourished through field hockey, soccer, track, swimming, lacrosse, and ultimate Frisbee. It never struck me as odd that a girl would enjoy participating in sports.
So, imagine my surprise when I walked into the bookstore to grab the most recent issue of Runner’s World (I was excited about their Winter Fitness issue) and I could not find it. I searched fitness, I searched sports, and I couldn’t find anything. “Strange,” I thought, “Runner’s World is a pretty major magazine.” Then, just I gave up hope; there it was under “Men” right there with those girls in bikinis magazines like Maxim, FHM, Stuff, etc. Oddly enough the magazines for other sports such as cycling, hiking, skiing, and Sports Illustrated were in the fitness/sports section where they belonged. “Maybe it’s a mistake I thought,” but upon further examination, this was no mistake. The magazines were being restocked and ALL the running magazines were right there in the men’s section. Apparently, women don’t run or are not interested in running.
I couldn’t help but feel a sense of outrage over running’s classification as a men’s interest. Who was this bookstore to tell me that running is a “men’s” interest? In actuality, women have been running since the beginning of human history. Ancient Greek and Egyptian women ran believing it improved their fertility. Greek myths celebrated Nike, the winged, female goddess of victory (and perhaps the namesake of the incredibly popular running shoes) and Atalantis, the woman who was raised by wolves to become a fast runner. She would only marry the man who could beat her in race.
Granted women’s running suffered many setbacks in history including many attempts to discredit women’s running; women were not officially allowed to compete in the Olympics until 1928. They could not run the 1,500 meters until 1972 (the same year Title IX passed) and the women’s marathon was kept out of the Olympics until 1984! Through all of those challenges, women kept running, either in their own events or as bandits in the men’s races. Currently, running is enormously popular among women who run for competition, companionship, charity, the challenge, or simply just to feel good and healthy. Like men, women run and have success at all levels; from the woman just trying to make it through her first mile on the treadmill as part of her New Year’s resolution to the women who win major, elite races. Runner’s World has even been edited by women such as Claire Kowalchik (also the author of The Complete Book of Running for Women) and many of its writers and editors are women. The magazine is clearly written for a co-ed audience. So, why is it I have to go to the men’s section to find a magazine about a hobby many women and men enjoy? Is someone trying to tell me that in 2007 someone still believes women cannot or do not want to run?
– Ashley English

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