March 8th was International Women’s Day, which meant celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The theme for this year was #PressforProgress. Women have been kicking butt in the running sphere lately. We definitely need to celebrate the progress that has been made! You’ll never get to where you’re going if you don’t know where you started.
Sometimes I feel like women are treated as second-class citizens in races, like we are an afterthought. It’s not that anyone explicitly said to me that women aren’t welcome and it’s not about any one individual slight. When I think about all of the slights, I feel like women are being treated as if we don’t belong. Perhaps it’s this inkling that drives women to want all-women’s races, where women are at the forefront.
The #MeToo hashtag has dominated our social media feeds lately, and rightly so. Created to bring awareness to the significant and consistent sexual violence, harassment and rape that women have been — and are — victims of on a daily basis, the #MeToo movement has given women a platform to share their stories, even including four United States senators.
Our mission at Salty Running is to create a safe space where we can share our stories and build a community that empowers us as runners and as women. We share our #MeToo stories today not to scare you or as proof that running is just too dangerous for women. We’ve moved past perceptions that women can’t run because they are not physically able or because it is not safe for women to be alone. Indeed, the prevalence of #MeToo stories across social media indicates that it is often simply dangerous and precarious to be a woman, and running does not increase our risk of harassment or attack. We’re just as likely to be harassed at work, the gym, in the subway or online.
We’ve written before about the prevalence of harassment women runners experience on the run, from honking and catcalling to physical assault. We share our #MeToo stories today because we view it as critically important to continue to raise awareness that daily, persistent abuse, harassment and even assault continues to affect all women, not just women runners. Rape, assault, and harassment are about power, not how we look or what we wear. By continuing to run, we demonstrate that we will not be silenced. We run because we can.
We run because we must.
Shalane Flanagan, in the introduction to First Ladies of Running, describes her mother’s marginalizing experiences as a runner in the 1970s: “It wasn’t unusual for her to be pelted by cans or bottles from passing motorists.” Women’s running has come a long way since then, and certainly since men banned us from running long distances to protect our uteri. Just as our early women running pioneers paved the way for us to run, we continue to run because we know that running not only increases our self-confidence physically but increases our self-efficacy in every aspect of our lives. By continuing to run, we fight not only for ourselves but for our future.
We will not be silent. We will persist.
As a group of women runners writing primarily for other women runners, we know that we are not telling you something you didn’t already know. Harassment and fear have become burdens that we accept and carry with us as we run. Bergamot shared her story of assault on the run earlier this year. Meanwhile, I, Cilantro, have yet to have a run outside in my new home without a least a honk; more often than not this is accompanied by catcalling. For a few runs last year, I was followed by a large white van. My story, these stories, are not unique.
This is not okay.
While the #MeToo movement is not a solution in itself to the problem of violence against women, it is important that we recognize and acknowledge how common these experiences are. Sexual harassment, rape, and assault are never our fault, no matter what we are wearing, where we are running, or who we are running with. Too long, women have been silenced or ignored. But now, as the #MeToo movement helps us tell our stories to a broader audience, ignorance is no longer an excuse — not that it ever was a valid one.
The burden for change is not on women runners. We do not need to change what we wear, where we run, who we run with or what we carry. Instead, men must stop assaulting and harassing women. All of us must stop accepting and normalizing violence and silencing the voices of the victims. We will not be silent.
Nevertheless, we run.
Nevertheless, we persist.
The following stories detail just a few of the harrowing experiences Salties have had on the run and may be triggering for those who have experienced sexual assault or harassment.
About a week ago, I was stretching by my parked car before a run on my favorite local path when I saw a young girl, maybe nine or ten years old, get out of a car with her dad. I overheard their conversation as she was stretching while her dad unloaded his bike.
She looked at him and said, “I hope you can bike fast because I am a really fast runner.”
Her confidence was beaming and she started running down the trail ahead of her dad, calling for him to catch up.
I started my run about five minutes later and saw her about a half mile down the trail. I made eye contact with her dad and I couldn’t stop smiling — her innocence and youthful love of running seems so rare for girls her age, and you could tell that he was so proud of his little girl.
I go to that path at least once a week and this was the first time I saw a young girl exercising. Why is that? Read more >>
Decades ago, women-only road races made sense. Societal notions on the athletic abilities of women left them banned from participating in most road races up until the 1960s and 1970s. Women-only races emerged as a beacon of the women’s running revolution: if we couldn’t participate in road races, then we would make our own.
That victory has long since been won. Women are no longer tackled when they run the Boston Marathon. Our gender comprises almost 50% of participants in road races, especially the half marathon.
So why do women-only road races, like last weekend’s Tufts 10k for Women, still exist? Are they a celebration of women’s running, an opportunity to introduce women to run, or a sexist remnant of an older era of road racing that promotes stereotypes about women in sports?
Not too long ago, the thought of women running was enough to give everyone the vapors. But trail blazers like Babe Didrickson, Doris Brown, Bobbi Gibbs showed the world that not only could women run, they could run pretty fast and pretty far while keeping their uteri intact. We may laugh now about the sheer absurdity of these misconceptions, but there are still instances where women run shorter distances than men. This is particularly the case when it comes cross country racing at all levels.
It seems unlikely that members of the NCAA, USATF or IAAF think women are less capable. Women compete in the same distances as men in all types of major national and international running competition aside from cross country on the track, roads, and trails. If that is the case, why are women running shorter distances than men in cross country?
As I ran this morning on the treadmill, I watched Fox News cover the story of the female runners who had been recently murdered while out on a run. I watched the story transition from one about potential connections between the murders to one where a trained individual showed two women how to protect themselves from a stranger attack while on a run. He mimicked running behind each runner and using their ponytails to yank them back and pull them off balance.
The image was almost panic-inducing. I imagined myself, out on a run, often the only person running on the trails around my local urban park. I found myself watching carefully to see what tips I could pick up to protect myself should I encounter a serial killer on my run.
But as I ran ostensibly safely on a treadmill inside a large, local big-box gym, I started to really think about the message this coverage was sending. Are we really in this much danger when we run and, if we are, what obligations do we have to protect ourselves? Read more >>
Picture a running coach: someone in command, respected by their team, competent and knowledgeable about the sport. Maybe this person is holding a clipboard and stopwatch, and wearing a cap bearing the team’s name. Are you picturing a man, maybe in his fifties or sixties? I am. (I probably ruined the effect of this experiment with the title of this article, but you get the point.)
I have that picture in my mind, not because I’m a sexist or believe men are better coaches than women. I have that picture in my mind because the vast majority of running coaches for collegiate and post-collegiate runners fit that profile.
While men are great and in general do a fine job of coaching women runners, I can’t help but feel like the running world is missing something because of the lack of women coaches in the sport. Read more >>
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?
Ladies, I know you understand: no matter how much running experience we have or how little they do, men are still mansplaining their way through training runs alongside us, about everything from heart rate variability to how Hanson’s Marathon Training plan really works.
And while I know they don’t mean to invalidate our assertions with male superior knowledge about #allthethings (mostly), their “meant to be helpful” statements often come on the heels of what we just said. Not extending or reaffirming what we just said, but explaining it to us in ways our lady brains can understand by repeating or restating it as a) their assertion, validated by their authority as male knowers of everything and b) completely neglecting that we just made the exact same point. Even more insidious, sometimes they’ll disagree with what we just said and then, to prove their contra-point, will then use OUR OWN DAMN WORDS.
As a public service to the running community, we’ve created this handy flowchart to help those dudes who might not even be aware that they are mansplaining away to their lady running buddies. Please distribute as necessary.
Read more >>
Caitlin Constantine is a few-weeks shy of ready for Boston. This 36 year-old Tampa-area native, didn’t come by her Boston qualifier easily. It took her years to realize a BQ was even in the realm of possibility for her. She slowly plugged away and, six years later, here she is.
Caitlin’s an expert at balance. She’s sponsored by Coeur Sports and has found success with her running while also training for and competing in triathlons. And she’s no slouch in-between workouts, either. When she’s not training to smash Heartbreak Hill, she’s a senior digital media producer for a 24/7 cable news station in Tampa. In Caitlin’s words that “basically means I spend a lot of time writing Florida Man stories.” She’s been married to her husband Brian for eight years and they have their hands full with three cats and a greyhound, “especially,” Caitlin says, “when they all circle around me and I realize that I’m outnumbered.”
And that’s not all. Caitlin is the voice behind the popular blog, Fit and Feminist, where she writes about fitness and feminism topics in general and documents her own evolution as an athlete. I knew she was the perfect Boston-Marathoner-in-training to talk to as she gears up to take down the patriarchy and her own PR!
Recently at the expo of a very expensive marathon, I was pretty pissed to discover there were no women’s medium shirts left and you know what the volunteer said to me? Oh, this really steamed me.
“You should be happy there are women’s shirts at all. They could have just ordered unisex shirts.”
UNISEX? Has there ever been a unisex shirt that was anything other than a man’s shirt? Has there ever been a unisex shirt with boob darts? Has there ever been a unisex shirt designed with women’s bodies in mind, a shirt men were supposed to just deal with, in spite of fitting completely wrong? Would any woman put “unisex shirt” on her Christmas list?
If you haven’t been watching rising star, Molly Seidel, you should be. She is fast. She is feisty. She is smart. She is a badass and she is making her mark on the running world! She will no doubt continue on a swift, upward trajectory; having amazing talent, an impressive work ethic, a strong support network, and even the prayers of Pope Francis to support her.
After an incredible high school career, Molly is now hitting a high point with her running at Notre Dame. This year alone, she won two NCAA titles and obliterated the infamous Foot Locker Curse. I had the good fortune of meeting Molly a couple of weeks ago at the Foot Locker Midwest Cross Country Championships, where we talked about her career to date, what’s in her future, and her approach to running that has made her a role model in the sport of Women’s Running. Read more >>
Recently at the end of a good, fast stroller-pushing run I finished up at the gravel pull-off where I’d parked, my daughter still fast asleep. I’d run my last mile in 7:39, quite a feat these days with her 35-pounds and our 10-pound dog riding together for seven miles. Not to mention I was still clearing out my cold and its residual phlegm.
Feeling pretty badass, I snot-rocketed out each nostril then pulled up my shirt to get the snot that didn’t clear my upper lip. I looked up mid-wipe to see an older couple sitting in the truck parked right next to my car, staring at me through their open windows. The woman had her hands over mouth, her eyes round behind her grandma glasses. The man appeared to be holding in a chuckle.
“Oh… God… I… Well, I didn’t see you there,” I lamely explained, pulling my shirt back down over my suddenly super-mini running skirt, noticing the huge sweat circle on my chest, the matching ones under my arms, and the smear of snot on my hem.
“Quite the LADY,” the woman observed.
There’s something exciting about finding a running catalogue in the mailbox. These days, my catalogues are the closest I get to reading Cosmo. I gave up all my magazine subscriptions at 20. I had to after I realized they made me feel pale, flabby, non-orgasmic, and boring. Good choice, 20-year-old Pimento! Break up with that dropout boyfriend while you’re at it and stop with the tanning beds! Ahh, hindsight…
As a full-fledged 36-year-old educated woman, mom, runner, and feminist (rawr), however, I feel like I might need to break up with the running catalogues, too. But in this case, it’s not the flabby feeling they evoke that’s got me down. Read more >>
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