Your Rules Are Wrong

Dedicated to the 511 women who qualified for the US Olympic Marathon Trials, and the ones chasing them, and the ones chasing them, and the ones chasing them, and the Boston squeakers, and the ones chasing them, and anyone else chasing a goal or a dream.

Be a lady, they said. Women always retire from competing after having children. It’s a fact that runners don’t get faster after 35. The only reason women pick up running after kids is to lose the baby weight. You have to lose weight to get faster. You’ll never balance it all. Competition is the only thing that matters. Competition is unhealthy. Competition is unseemly for women. You never say you want to win, even if it’s true. Especially not when you have a family to think about. Be a lady, they said.

All your rules are wrong.

Your rules are based on outdated data. That sometimes aren’t even based on women at all. Your rules don’t account for a world where women’s running paths aren’t a linear journey. Where we take breaks. Have careers. Have children. Aren’t just hammering away at the same old goals for years. Toggle between work and family and sport because we have unfinished business with each in turn. Maybe it’s actually a better model. Maybe that’s why we peak later. If we peak at all. Your rules are wrong.

Your rules aren’t immutable laws of nature. Your rules are based on arbitrary social constructs. Your rules don’t take into account husbands and partners who actually want to parent, to be part of domestic life, whose identity embraces ‘father’ alongside ‘manager’ and ‘runner’ and ‘worker’. Your rules view runners only, limitingly, as individuals. Your rules don’t see the families or social support systems we’ve built or that we’re part of, which are invisible to your rules’ eye. Your rules are wrong.

Your rules say every man for himself. Your rules can’t conceive of new models of collaborative competition, where women can actually be friends and rivals and training partners at the same time, encouraging each other to grow. Your rules “don’t see color” but can’t understand why distance running is so white. Have forgotten the great mass and potential of other runners who don’t look like the runners you know. Who don’t have stories like the runners you know. Whose potential has yet to unfold. Who have yet to be inspired. Whose time is coming. Your rules say they celebrate but don’t really understand just how much women’s running has changed in 10 short years, or 35, or (about) 50. Your rules are wrong.

We’re out there breaking your rules because it’s always better to ask for forgiveness than permission. Some of us don’t need permission. Some of us don’t care about forgiveness and are already burning the boats. Some of us have never heard of your rules. Where we’re going we don’t need rules. The game has changed, is going to keep changing. And we’re the ones changing it.


Tropical transplant to the chilly Northeast. Professional writer and researcher, cantankerous editor, mom to two! inquisitive children, asker of inconvenient questions.

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  1. I don’t think I could love this any more! THANK YOU for putting into words what so many of us know.