Central Park was a sea of powerful, strong women on Saturday at the New York Mini 10k, led by winner Jemima Sumgong (Kenya) and a host of other Olympic-bound elites. Salty Favorites Brianne Nelson and Des Linden took fifth and sixth, and were followed by just shy of 9,000 other women, including Salty contributor Honey.
But why do we need a women-only race? I have to admit that were men to exclude me from a 10k I would be pretty damn annoyed, so what’s the point of excluding men? Is it some kind of consolation prize for not being as fast as a man of equal fitness? Do women-only races serve any purpose other than pointing out that we’re different than what is ‘normal’ for an athlete just by being women?
As for the New York Mini, the race “got its name when race founder Fred Lebow convinced the sponsor to support a six-mile ‘mini’ marathon–named for the miniskirt–rather than a full marathon,” reads the NYRR press release. “It was the world’s first road race exclusively for women, with the inaugural race  having 72 finishers.”
Does that sit wrong with any of you? I mean, the name does hearken back to a time when women in sports weren’t “normal” and were assumed to be less athletic than men. Does the name “Mini” insult us with this reminder? What about when I tell you that the first NYC Marathon, held in 1970, only had one female entrant who DNF’ed, and the second in 1971 (a few months prior to the inaugural NY Mini) only saw four ladies cross the finish line? Did the founding of this women-only race encourage more women to hit the road and race? Just a few years later, women’s participation in the marathon finally reached double digits and exploded from a mere nine female finishers in 1974 to 36 in 1975, 18 of whom were from New York. I wonder how many of them ran the New York Mini and thought, “Maybe I can run a marathon?”
What do you think? Are women-only races good for women, or do they simply perpetuate a culture of dividing femininity from athleticism?