I have complicated mixed feelings about women-only races. On the one hand, I understand the historical importance of women-only races when women were routinely and institutionally shut out of competition. On the other hand, I despair over the tendency of these races to emphasize the heteronormative stereotypical ideas of womanhood of frilly pink, jewelry, tiaras, and tutus. And I say this as a heterosexual runner who loves pink and running in tutus. It’s not that I object to their existence at races, but that these women-only races tend to display a singular idea of what it means to be a woman.
My previous experience at a women-only race was last year when I earned a free race entry to any race managed by a timing company for some social media work that I did as a race ambassador for a different race. Their women-only race was the only one that fit in my schedule. I left that race underwhelmed. I didn’t care about being surrounded by other women. The race wasn’t as well-managed as their other races, so that race, and thus me as a result, felt like an afterthought.
When I first heard about Thelma & Louise Half Marathon in Moab, Utah a few years ago, I became really excited by its concept. I adored the movie and the race offered a tantalizing promise of something different from the other women-only races. I had to be patient, but I finally was able to go out to Moab a few weeks ago to experience the Thelma & Louise Half for myself.